Homework: It’s a Bad Word in My House

Homework may be the word most dreaded by school kids every day, but it’s also one of the most dreaded words by this mom. It ranks up there with lice and vomit, two other words I don’t want my kids to come home from school and tell me about. Though those ailments may have much worse consequences in the short run, homework provides day in, day out gut-wrenching exhaustion in the long run.

Some days my first- and third-grade kids come home, finish homework without so much as a whimper, and scoot out the door like a scene from a 1950s television show. Many other days, though, someone fusses, whines, cries, or screams over homework. Sometimes that someone may even be me. As far as I can tell, no quick remedy exists to cure this homework repulsion. I’ve tried every approach and tactic I can think of, failing miserably in the process and often wanting to crawl under the table myself and join my daughter in a fit of tears. But I hold my head high as long as I can, keep my voice calm, and tell myself that if their teachers can get two dozen kids to do their work each day, surely I can get two through a half hour of skills practice.

When my kids get home from school, they’re tired. They’ve practiced things like subtraction, division, writing complete sentences, and reading comprehension all day. When faced with homework that requires them to do this yet again, sometimes they lose it and they take it out on me. And tears flow. They squirm. They writhe in agony as if some unknown force pulls their limbs in every direction. They collapse in despair, bodies sprawled across the table too weak to hold a broken pencil. They ask for my help and then get mad when I calmly explain the work. They want me to do it for them and get madder still when I don’t comply. They spend 40 minutes fussing about homework and it could have been done in 15. It doesn’t add up. My kids obviously need a refresher in math skills.

Homework, not my favorite time of day. What I've found is that distance helps.

My son and I then argue over whether other parents check their kids’ homework. He says they don’t. I say who cares. He needs to know what he got wrong and why.

Between the storms, we have had success. So what worked best to break out of our writhing, squirming, under-the-table-and-screaming afternoons?

1. Freedom. Letting the kids decide when to do their homework helps. If they don’t want to do it when they walk in the door from school, no problem, as long as they do it before dinner.

2. Location. If they want to do their homework in the kitchen, living room, bedroom, heck, even under the kitchen table or in the bathtub, I really don’t care.

3. Routine. It takes my kids time to get back into the routine once school starts. They come home from school, shove food down their throats, and run upstairs to play before they settle in with their books. If we have somewhere else to be one afternoon, such as soccer practice, I know we’re in for a rough afternoon come homework time because it messes up their routine. We have a routine, even when they choose when to do their homework, and we stick to it as best we can.

4. Time. It simply takes time for my kids to adjust when a new school year starts, not weeks but months. They do a lot in a day and they have to get used to a schedule that requires a lot of them again.

5. Independence. Once my kids were old enough, I let them do their homework alone if they understood it. Then I check it when they finish.

6. Love. I joke about it because humor helps lessen the sting, but when all else fails, a hug gets us all through those really rough times. Sometimes we just need to stop the craziness, sit on the couch, and snuggle and laugh. Refocusing breaks us out of the funk.

I tried other things that didn’t work, such as getting mad and frustrated. My kids tried things too, such as putting down any answer because their teacher doesn’t check that homework. The funny thing is, we’ve all learned lessons. I don’t know how long homework will cause an upheaval in our lives each year and when my kids will just accept it and always do it without a fight. I simply haven’t done my homework on that.

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22 Comments

Filed under Everyday Life

22 responses to “Homework: It’s a Bad Word in My House

  1. Evenings my 6th graders do homework, at their desks. In the mornings my 1st grader and I do his homework, in the elementary school parking lot, alone, while he has a seatbelt on, with a clipboard. We do it before school starts and after I drop off his brothers at middle school. It works for this year.

    • I get it! I really do. Sometimes I really hate that they even have homework at that age. I know it’s to get them ready for later years, but kindergarten and first grade are already such an adjustment. Play is an important part of their learning and development too and I have to make sure they have time for that too. The seat belt thing, good strategy.

      • Oh, and I tell him how the president did his homework every morning with his mom. All three of mine get PLENTY of free time. I guess I should be happy that whatever they are pushing at school he is reading chapter books. My older ones were premature and twins and well we worked so hard to keep them at grade level we would have never done the morning thing. They are all so different!

  2. K. Eley

    I must admit I do the bribe thing. I have a candy jar that my son gets to pick from when he finishes his homework. All else has failed. One little piece of candy is worth an afternoon of peace.

  3. We all hate homework in my house. I let my kids do it on their own. If they don’t get it done, they suffer the consequences, but they always do it. I honestly don’t even look at it unless they need help. Maybe that’s not the best way to parent, but I think they should learn to be responsible for themselves. Of course, my kids are no win 4th and 6th grades, so they can be responsible.

    • Yeah, one of my son’s teachers told me not to check his, but we were having a problem with him not understanding some things once and I knew she wasn’t going to sit down with him and explain why he missed what he missed. So I did. It has helped him get through some tough math lessons.

  4. My kids are exhausted when they get home from school, too. We have a constant struggle, so I use your #6 a lot – humor, humor and more humor. The worst with my oldest is that he feels defeated before he begins. He, too, tells me that nobody’s parents look at their work. I always reply, who is nobody? Such a timely post for our household!!

  5. I am not looking forward to the homework thing of which you speak. Cody will be in first grade next year. I think I may be one of “those moms” who have their kids do workbooks and such during the summer so they don’t forget what schoolwork is when classes start up in the fall. I am glad you listed some of the ideas that worked for you as I am sure I will be in your shoes in the very near future.

  6. oh, I am thankful my kids are too young for this and I DREAD the day. You have a wonderful approach, one that I experienced as a child. Great mom, great post!

  7. The homework grind starts early, doesn’t it? My son is a teenager, and the upside is that we had time to develop good study, planning and organization habits. The little things, like, don’t leave the book at school, pace the reading assignment, and tell your mom you need posterboard from Staples before it’s too late to get it. Now he’s self-sufficient, which is good, because I don’t remember Geometry.

  8. I will definitely follow these guidelines when my daughter is old enough for homework! great post!

  9. This sounds like you’re describing my life! This is exactly what happens in my house every day with my 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders!

  10. I used to be just like that. I found that putting on the TV in the background or (always better) music with some snacks was the best way to do homework.

    Either that or some pretty wicked threats coming from my mom.

  11. Eww…homework. Right now my challenges are minimal, but I know that won’t last. Once the other two boys are in school and all three are doing homework. I need to learn how to meditate or something…patience.

  12. I think we all struggle with this one! The other day I had to give myself a refresher in subtracting mixed fractions. We ended up doing homework till bed time. We were both exhausted but we got it done. The next day I lightened up on the studying and we enjoyed more of the evening. It’s a give and take thing but yes I agree very frustratring;)

    • Yes, I’ve had to take a few refreshers myself! The most frustrating for me is when my son wants my help and then basically turns to Jell-O in the chair, sliding all around in it, fidgeting. I can see him melting. We take a break. Then later my husband swoops in and they do it in two minutes. So not fair.

      • Oh my gosh! My husband too! When he does it my son pays attention and gets it done but when I try to help, my son pays attention to the t.v. squirms and huffs and puffs….how funny!

  13. Pingback: Chapter 15: Homework sucks | litterachi

  14. maryct70

    I feel your pain. I work with my first grader on his homework right after dinner every evening. With both parents working it’s the only time we can do it, but by the end of the day his brain, and mine, are fried. We have all the same battles you describe – what should be a 5-minute worksheet takes 20 minutes of whining, complaining, and sometimes stubborn defiance. Makes me long for Summer Vacation!

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