The Homework Battle

Aha – my title caught your eye because you find yourself assuming the commander position in this minefield (circle the correct option here:) never/occasionally/more than occasionally/sometimes/way too often/every day/I need a good glass of red so I can handle the battle plans/I am looking for evening employment so I don’t need to be home at homework time.  Oh, and by the way, if you happily circled “never,” brace yourself. It’s coming…

Before I launch into my own homework battle plan, there are some (“crumpled?”) issues that need ironing out. I believe that if these are in place, the battle will not even begin in the first place.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Schools should have a homework policy for how many minutes of homework is expected from each year group each day. This does not include reading time. Our school has a set policy.

2. Homework is not set for parents to explain work to children. It is there for consolidation and practice of skills acquired at school. It should be called Homeskills or Homepractice or Independent Practice (IP) or Home Learning…

3. It is the teacher’s responsibility therefore, to send IP that matches the child’s skill level, as well as suited to the recommended time policies. I am horrified when parents report that 8 year olds are doing 2 hours of Maths at night … ouch! How to make a kid hate a subject AND school.

4. It is the parent’s responsibility to let the teacher know if a child is unable to complete his IP because the work is too difficult. It is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure the child understands the content and grasps the skill.

5. IP should not be set up for the sake of home-work. It is okay to not send IP home every day.

With that off my chest, and in place, I would now withdraw from the battle. Yes IP is not the parent’s battle to fight. Guidance – yes.  A bit of support- yes. Providing a good IP area and ensuring time to do it – yes. Making it a fight? No way.

And so,

  1. Explain to your child that you will not fight about IP. Should he not want to do it, make sure he understands the relationship between his chosen action and the consequence. (“Okay sweet darling…but just think about what will happen at school tomorrow when you don’t hand in your work. I’m glad I won’t have to face your teacher.”) Finished! Schools love dishing out punishments for no homework. And mum won’t be the one doing lunch time detention. Your child will survive the consequence. It will not scar him for life but will teach him to be responsible for his actions.

2. When you get home from school and all the other afternoon events you have to conquer, ask your child how long he needs to relax before he will be ready to start his homework. In our house, it is anything from 30-45 minutes. We set the oven timer – it has a very loud beep. The kids know when it blasts, it is homework time. Finished! No drinks, toilet, games, excuses (you’ve had 45 minutes to do that) just homework.

3. When recommended time for your child’s grade is up, write a note to the teacher saying, “My little darling worked for X minutes and got up to here.” Teachers need to know about work speed. It is important information.“But what about the child who messes around for the X amount of minutes?” you cry in desperation. You explain how many minutes he will be working for and you set the timer. You explain that if he messes up/mucks up/whatever you call it, you will stop the timer and it goes back to the beginning.  See him muck up more than once. Now that you are no longer a commander, let him know you mean business.

4. If the IP is too difficult, stop doing it. Write a note to the teacher saying, “My little darling (who at this point is still your little darling because there have been no fights) found the homework too difficult. Please can you spend more time on it?” We need to be parents in the afternoons, not teachers. Our job is to encourage HEALTHY IP, not hatred for it. The kid needs to know that it is not his problem … the teacher is employed to teach him and if he does not understand the work then the teacher has not done her job properly (or she is sending home inappropriate IP.)

 Yes – withdrawal from the homework battle can only be achieved if the school has a homework policy that works. Until then, we calm evening parents, with weapons and battle plans locked away (but not the good red stuff of course) will send a message loud and clear to all players about how far we are prepared to go to instil a love for learning and independent learning in our kids.

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One Response to The Homework Battle

  1. Nina Riley says:

    Yes, we think alike. My son’s school does not differentiate – so all children in his class get the same homework – aka – IP! Yes, you are so right, IP is to help consolidate what they have learned and not for parents to have to explain from start to finish – and then do the IP themselves! Love the post. Nina.

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