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Why I Don't Hate Homework: Part One

Like death and taxes, do you ever really escape homework? This week we're talking about the subject that every parent loves to hate. Should they?

Homework.

Need I say more? Is that groaning I hear, with maybe a few unmentionable words thrown in?

Once you’ve been a parent for a few years you realize that as you make your way through each stage, and are maybe beginning to feel a little bit competent, there are a whole new set of challenges just waiting for you around the next corner.

After hearing the frustration expressed by friends, walking through the Kindergarten gates I knew homework was sure to be one of those new challenges.

I don’t think homework has ever been popular with kids, but I am starting to understand why the word also inspires such a strong reaction from parents themselves. Undeniably, it can be torturous; there are days I have to give myself a time-out (or three). Parents are known to drink their way through it. You know who you are.

I’m a potential nightmare for my sons in the school department. I was one of those kids who naturally excelled in school, and because I also worked hard at it as well. I did well partly because I was expected to by my family, and I wanted to rise to their expectations, but more so because I just loved learning. I still do. I had great teachers, and I had terrible teachers; my parents were involved at times, but more frequently uninvolved. Regardless, I was self-driven to learn.

I feel a little sorry for my boys, because it won’t be easy for them to wiggle out of their abilities and potential with me, academic or otherwise. But, I also send my son off to school each day with the same message, with a very intentional emphasis: “Do your best, and have fun.”  

Ultimately my goal for my kids is that if they are “like me,” loving to learn is what we share. That’s the best motivator I know to inspire them to make the most of the educational opportunities they will have. 

So, I have had mixed feelings about homework (and especially for Kindergarteners, like my son); I’m known to complain along with other parents during the homework hours. I’ve been skeptical about how homework is compatible with my overarching goal to foster a love of learning. In fact, I’d say I’ve had something of a chip on my shoulder about it.

But, as a parent I challenge myself to keep an open mind (sometimes that requires a pry-bar), and I’m beginning to see a point and purpose to homework. Dare I say it? I’m beginning to see the potential of doing homework.

Here are some reasons I’m trying not to hate homework, for my children’s sake:

  • Learning discipline and responsibility. 

I very well may be “old-school,” but sustained effort to practice and master something isn’t a bad thing in my opinion. Taking responsibility for one’s own learning, even if it is not always fun and interesting pays dividends in life beyond classrooms. As a parent, I embrace opportunities for my child to learn this early. Even when something interests you, like playing an instrument, writing a story, or solving a math problem, your true talent goes unrealized without commitment to stick with it, regardless of if it is a day you can’t imagine doing anything else, or a day you want to quit.

That being said, the amount of homework, the type of homework, and the expectations about what role it plays in true learning needs to be kept realistic, and in check. I’ll have my child’s back on that as we go along. For an excellent commentary on learning, creativity and education, I highly recommend that every parent watch Sir Ken Robinson’s excellent TED talk on the subject.

  • Taking part in my child’s education. 

I’ve done my time as a student, and homework isn’t something I relish repeating, even at the supervisory level. But, I do love watching my son make connections, and when he learns something new, solves a problem, or shows his creativity and curiosity, that is thrilling, and gift for me to be there to see. Homework gives me that opportunity daily. I’m also gaining a direct understanding of what’s working and what isn’t working. As a result, I can better partner with his teachers to support his learning interests and challenges.

Unfortunately, since homework isn’t all rainbows and soaring heights of Einsten-like epiphanies, that also means I have to stick with him through the many, many, moments of mutual frustration, mistakes, “try it again,” “this is boring,” and “I can’t do its.”

That, as they say, is “parenting” folks.

Now it’s your turn to sound off about how you feel about homework. How does it affect your child, your family, and yourself? Does it help them learn, or hinder them?

Next week, I’ll share how we’re finding harmony in homework. If you have tips and strategies you would like to share, please email me (Kirsten.e.branch@gmail.com) or leave in comments.

Dee November 17, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Sorry, with all due respect, until you have a child who is at least in the upper grades of elementary school, you may not want to write about the rigors of homework and be taken seriously. It's like trying to write about labor when you've only had 2 contractions. Re-visit this topic in another 10 years so we can see if your opinion has changed.
Kirsten Branch November 17, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Thanks, Dee. Love to hear from someone down that road about your feelings on the topic. If you were in my position earlier in, what advice would you give? Good tips? Constructive advice and feedback to offer? Love to hear it!
Dee November 17, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I think the homework issue depends on the child and their personality. I wish I could give you a catch all answer for how to deal with homework headaches, but every child and parent is different. Subjects that we breezed through may be an obstacle for them. I'm not a 'math person' so their math skills surpassed mine quickly. I had to rely on their dad or peer tutoring if they needed help. Every kid has their own learning style. Some are fine with sitting down and forging through homework, while others can be distracted and need to be up and moving. Again, it all depends on the personality. If I could give any advice it would be "Be Flexible" and remember your child is not you, no matter if you were the best or worst student. Throw all that out the window. Try not to be frustrated if they can't understand a concept that comes easily to you. Be a presence while they do their homework, but don't do it for them. Work it through, be the cheerleader and a shoulder to lean on when it gets tough. Keep distractions to a minimum to keep them on track. In a few years when they have procrastinated on that big project that is due the next day, there will be tears from both of you. I guarantee it. Oh, and don't compare them to their siblings or friends (just thought I'd throw that in!) and it's okay to lower your expectations with some things and let their individual talents shine through. Even when those homework nights are looong, the years do fly by! Good luck!
Kirsten Branch November 18, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Appreciate the tips and perspective from your experience. You make a great point about learning style, and being flexible. Thanks, Dee!
Steve December 05, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Good advice

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