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Homework: The daily fight to finish

3311919424_e0d9bc4fb7_b The setting:  the dining room table.  The activity:  Finishing homework the night before it's due.  The result:  A battle of wills like you've never witnessed before.  There will be many broken pencils, gray hairs, and with a little luck (because effort is not even part of this equation) there will be a finished assignment.  Things always come up, like a more interesting speck of dust, or the need to pee (5 times in 20 minutes).  Eventually, most of it will get done.  And this is just First Grade!  Boy, are we in for it!  So please, mamas, do you have any tricks?  Tips?  How do you get homework done without getting into a brawl? 


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getting homework *done* is not my priority (another topic for another day), but I do like it to be attempted. my breakthrough came too easily, handed to me by Everett himself: he told me his friend didn't get to have any screen time until he finished his homework. bingo! now I calmly make it a requirement in order to earn screen time. ok. two nights out of four.

My son's best time is in the morning, so we do homework when he wakes up. Once homework is done he gets to watch a cartoon before school, which is pretty good motivation for him. Since he's in kindergarten I try not to take the homework thing SO seriously, so I will sometimes let him use colored pens or markers, just to keep him excited about doing the work.

My Daughter is in first grade and excited about homework now. She wants to do it right away so we do it when I get home or after dinner. I do not want to take the homework thing too seriously until she is a little older, they will get enough of it down the road.

My son was going to a rigorous private school that assigned homework everynight starting in 1st grade, often multiple pages or assignments. By the time we got home, cooked dinner and finished homework it was time for bed. He had no time to really wind down mentally or physically. He wasn't enjoying life and frankly I blame the homework. I never thought this would be the case, but when we switched to public school in 5th grade things started to look up. Don't get me wrong, he doesn't love home work and rarely WANTS to do it but the fighting and crying about it is a rare thing where as before it was every night.

One thing you can try is to read, write in your journal, pay bills or the like at the table while your son is doing his homework. That way he doesn't feel like the family is helicoptering around him nor does he feel left out. Be present but don't hover. Often when we hover the kids realize they can get our goat easier and bait us, my son would groan/whine/make faces/put his head on the table/ask a million ?'s if he knew I was watching. If I sat there with my attention focused on my own book and didn't react he would quit.

Good luck Shetha, you're not alone!

In kindergarten last year, my son had a short assignment every night, but it wasn't all due until Friday. So, first week of 1st grade he gets a weekly homework sheet from the teacher and we miss turning in the first assignment and he promptly missed 5 minutes of recess. I emailed her and told her I thought it was a little harsh considering first week, no clear intructions and expectations left over from kinder. Well, we do get it done every night, but if we don't do it right when he gets home, it's a battle. After dinner it's been a long day and he's too cranky and it doesn't help if he needs help with the material. Sometimes we can't get to it right away, but he knows the consequences if it's not done. We just have to talk about it with him and remind him that it needs to be done and he can make the experience drag out or unpleasant or just get it done and have time to play before bed.

We were having the same issue and it's so hard when they are so young because it really does feel like "your" homework rather than theirs. I sat down with my daughter and we made a chart of the week. I filled in the spaces where she couldn't do homework because of school or other activities. Then she was able to see where the spaces were that represented time for doing the homework. I also let her know when I would be available for homework help. Such as I'm not available to help at bedtime the night before it's due! It's nice to ask your child what they think they need in order to get the homework done and make a list so that you both remember. Then filling in the chart to make those homework times specific and your child can be more accountable. I learned a lot about helping kids set up a routine through Positive Discipline. A really helpful website to which you can refer is: http://posdis.org/dquestions/homeworkproblems.html
Look for the question and answer titles "Homework Problems and Tips".
I still have to remind my daughter about her homework time, but we have the chart and the list that we can refer to which helps her remember out agreement. I hope this is helpful to you!

My daughter's kinder, although fairly rigorous in academics during the day, has not had much in the way of homework, so this is a bridge we've yet to cross, but I love amber's suggestion of setting up shop nearby with paperwork of my own. I run my own business, so that's never in short supply. I also anticipate needing to set up a consistent routine for homework, i.e., home, snack, homework, or dinner, bath, homework, desert that we stick to the great majority of the time. We get less fights about just about everything if it falls within a stable and predictable routine.

One solution that has helped my daughters and me is having their Dad do homework with them at least once a week.

I agree that it's important to ensure homework gets done before anything else. Once your child starts playing after school it's really hard to motivate him to stop and do homework. It's also important to know that homework will always be a struggle unless it's a habit -- like anything else that we all must do but isn't fun. At the kindergarten and first grade level it's probably okay to adjust the timing as needed since a lot of kids are exhausted after school. But the earlier you create the expectation that homework should be done first, the easier it'll be in the long run for yourself and your child.

My boy is in kindergarten, so this really isn't an issue for us yet. He gets a little homework, doable over the course of the week typically while I'm fixinig dinner and he's sitting in the kitchen with me, but with no firm deadline and no huge expectation from the teacher. I guess I really question the whole idea though of having to go to school, come home and keep doing schoolwork, and then perhaps not having any play time after that. When did we stop valuing going outside to play after school? Is there really so much learning to do that they can't just do it in the school day and let kids be free to imagine and run and explore afterwards? UGH! At least in these early years. Why are we giving kindergarten-3rd/4th grade kids homework anyway? Sorry for the rant here, but it's just repetitive worksheet crap anyway, not particularly meaningful. Or am I missing something?

I wanted to respond from a (4th grade) teacher's prospective. First, if homework wasn't a requirement, (in my district students are graded on their report card if they turn in homework or not.)I'd be happy not to give it. However, if done what I like to think of as correctly - ie - not the worksheet crap mentioned above - it is a good glimpse of what your child is learning during that week and therefore becomes a communication piece. In addition to reading for 20 min. each night, and practicing math facts for 10 min each night, there is usually only one reading assignment, possibly a writing assignment, and also a math assignment for the entire week. Second, talk with your student's teacher! I personally send homework packets home on Monday's and they are due the following Monday. I've had parents ask to alter that, or send a note if completing it isn't going to happen that week. I really could care less. I have much more important things to manage than keeping a firm hold on homework. Finally, homework is also just extended practice of what we've worked on during the week. Some kids just need that extra bit of it to solidify their understanding.

I guess what I'm ultimately saying is - talk to your student's teacher! See what flexibility they can offer to meet you and your student's needs! Remember that we are a team to help your student succeed. It's not you against us or vice versa.

I just refuse to fight about homework! My mental health and my relationship with my child are more important. Right now my daughter is only in Kinder and her teacher is pretty laid back, so there are not any consequences for not doing it. If at some point there are school based consequences for not turning in homework, she will have to decide what to do. Her father and I are always willing to help where appropriate if she asks, but considering the PTSD I suffer from the homework hell in my own childhood I plan on letting my children choose if and when to do homework.

Stand up for childhood and speak up to the teachers and the schools and insist that the madness of sending homework home before about age 9 or 10, be stopped.

Research has shown that children's IQ and brain development is closely tied to playing and gross motor development. Sitting down doing detailed busy work does not make smarter adults, it makes worn out children.

Play is important and must be protected.

Stick up for the rapidly disappearing Lost Childhood in America syndrome.

I have a name for what happens, Early Academic Fatique Syndome. Seriously, I have seen 7 year olds who look like little old grey skinned men and women....

Insist on knowing WHY homework is needed and how it is justified and if at all possible, refuse to participate.

Marsha Johnson

Unfortunately, my full time job comes with a lot of "homework"...that is, if stick to my guns and spend no more than 45 hours a week at my office. Most evenings find my middle-schooler and I at the dining room table, doing homework side-by-side. I find she does better that way--if I'm quiet and focused, she can be, too (it helps me, too--her quiet and focus). Our house is pretty small, so if I'm moving around, doing housework, etc., it's distracting to her. Even if I'm not doing work-work, I spend her homework time paying bills, reading, etc. Then we do evening chores together.

I'm with Marsha! Fortunately our kids to go a school that places more emphasis on learning and creativity than on worksheets. Homework (a very reasonable amount, not too much) is assigned once a week and the kids have a week to do it at their own pace, on their own schedule. They learn to trust themselves to do their work without anyone breathing down their necks.

Kids learn by being in the world, using their bodies and senses and ideas and trying (and failing) new things. We wouldn't attend a school that did things any differently.

I wanted to add an "AMEN" to Marsha, pdxmomto2, and timetoplay.

There is a big movement afoot right now to resist homework in elementary grades. Seriously, the more I learn about brain development and early academic burnout, the more I fall in line with this. Several school districts (in other states) are starting to do away with homework altogether.

Advocate for your child and do not be afraid to (nicely) challenge the status quo!

Check out this article (one of many, but I like that it was written by a parent):


(I come from a long line of public school teachers, by the way, and am currently married to one as well.)

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