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Done With Homework ?

Homework.  The one word that brings a chill to a superwoman's spine.  It's a worthy topic to dive into, because it will be a piece of my life for the next decade.  My kids are currently in 2nd and 3rd grade and I have decided that 3rd grade is when school takes a huge turn to SERIOUS.  A few secrets to help get over the homework hump...

I have 2 rules when it comes to homework:
  1. Homework time is US time, not THEM time (no matter how long it takes).
  2. My kids have homework - not me.

Let's face it - no kid wants to do homework.  No adult wants to do homework. I just finished another semester of seminary and this first week of freedom from homework has been wonderful.  Just because we don't want to do homework doesn't mean that we don't do homework. Homework is a natural way to teach us responsibility, endurance, patience and how to reach goals.  So how do we motivate our kids to do something they don't want to do?  Here are my strategies - constantly being refined, but yielding good results so far.

  • Create a daily schedule.  My kids get out of school at 1:30pm everyday. We finish lunch by 2:30pm and they unwind until about 3pm. (If you have a chance for this "unwind" time, I recommend it - 6 hours of school followed by another hour at home is sometimes unbearable and frustrating).  Around 3pm I take time with each kid to go through everything in their backpack.  I show them each book and ask them if they opened it that day.  I go through every notebook that they write in and ask them to explain to me what they learned.  Yes it's painstaking.  Yes it's time consuming.  But it's worth it.  Just today my daughter said to me, "I love showing you what I learned in art class today."  Yeah - time well spent.
  • The scheduled backpack time most inevitably yields homework - every time that I find a book or notebook that something needs to be done in, I set it aside and we tackle it all at the same time.  Before moving to the table for homework, there is one last step (remember, we are superwomen so you are always thinking ahead); pack the backpack for tomorrow.  Check pencils for points, that erasers haven't been lost and add in the extra book for English class that is only on Tuesdays.  Don't forget this - it makes your morning so much better.
  • Move to the table with the stack of homework - sometimes 2 minutes worth, and other times 25 minutes worth.  In my apartment, we do homework at the kitchen  table.  I would love to have a more dedicated "homework" space, but due to lack of space in our apartment our table is the designated space.  At this point in time, remember the 2 rules - this is US time, but my kids do the homework.  My kids know what I am available when they are doing their homework  - but availability multitasks as well.  I set up my laptop and get out a couple emails, check Facebook, plan my meals for the next week.  I've been known to start dinner or throw in some laundry. I am never more than a room away when they are working. I think this is key - when they have questions, I can hear them.  When they have victories of finishing, I rejoice with them.  BE CLOSE.  It will change your homework life.  Kids just need to know you are there - they don't need you to do their work.
  • Let your kid complain that their hand hurts or that their brain hurts.  Remember that they are learning new things everyday, and that all that writing takes a toll on the hand.  Offer a quick hand massage - that always gets my kids going again.
  • Let your kid take a quick break if they need.  If my son has more than 20 minutes of homework, he starts to get impatient and frustrated.  I ask him if he needs a 3 minute break - if he says yes, he goes and shoots some hoops in his mini-basketball hoop in his room.  He comes back refreshed and homework is much smoother. He knows that a short break helps. Keep it short and you won't lose any time - you end up gaining it because he is focused again.
  • Remember to follow up on homework.  Ask "How did the spelling test go today"? "Did you remember the poem that we worked on?" "Did you teacher like how you colored the action verbs?"  Follow up questions confirm your kids - you aren't just getting though homework, you are helping them accomplish really hard goals. 
If you are the superwoman of a child that is learning to write - here is a trick that I used with both my kids and they loved practicing letters. I read in a magazine to spread out some play dough, and let your kids practice letters with a pencil in the play dough.  It helped them keep letters straight and learn the movements a bit easier, because the play dough is harder to pull through. It also appeals to her sense of creativity, so she feels like she's playing instead of refining fine motor skills. :)

Yep, I'm a self-proclaimed superwoman because I invest time with my kids in homework.  It's good for me.  It's good for them.  The master plan is that by the time High School hits, they are "schooled" in the ways of homework, and my schedule turns to watch keeper - but for now, I will duly fill my post as hand holder.

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Emily Kortanek Armstrong, RN, BSN
(with Scott, Elijah and Sydney)

Emily is a Northpoint mom, currently living out her dream as wife to Scott and mom to Elijah and Sydney.  She and her husband are career missionaries living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Baby girl with pony tail in white