Homework. Just when I thought it was all over and I had put those long torturous hours behind me, they’re back, and with a vengeance! I now realize that doing your own homework, while difficult and tiring, is nothing compared to helping your young child with the simplest and easiest worksheets!
I still remember lugging home a bag full of books as a young girl and sitting at my desk with my mom as my tutor. When I was very young, she would assist me every step of the way, but as I got older, she also began leaving me to figure it out on my own, simply checking to make sure I had finished everything afterwards.
However, as frustrating as it was for me back then to toil away and repeat whatever was not good enough for my mom, it must have been worse for her. Now that my daughter has been introduced to the concept of homework, I realize that what this actually means is that I have homework, as well.
At first glance, a young child’s worksheets and question forms may look like a piece of cake, which shouldn’t take the two of you more than 10-15 minutes to answer—until you actually sit down beside your young student and get down to work. Then you realize that you’re going to be there for a long time.
Sometimes, I feel like patting myself on the back for having the patience of a saint to thoroughly explain and review every detail to make sure that my daughter understands what we are discussing, and that she is really learning something. Those are the good days.
Then there are days when I feel as though I need divine intervention to find the patience to explain and repeat what I just explained five minutes ago. During those times, I have to remind myself that it actually took me years to figure out what comes naturally now, and can’t expect a six-year-old to understand everything immediately.
Since I expect to be going through this ritual for the next several years, or at least until they are old enough to be responsible for their academic obligations, I decided to start researching on ways to make my children’s homework time with me a little less stressful, more enjoyable and productive.
It was easy enough to get tips from friends and find sites with great advice; now comes the hard part of actually putting them all into practice! Over the last few weeks, I have been trying to apply all of these in our homework sessions. Sometimes they work, sometimes I excuse myself and get myself a glass of water so I can have a moment of silence to remind myself of my goals for my daughter.
Somehow, remembering why I am doing this helps to keep things in focus and lengthen my patience. Hopefully, practice will make perfect! Until then, it will be my personal homework for the next few years.
1. Don’t pass on your personal bias against homework to your children.
As you can see from the opening line of this article, I did not enjoy homework as a student. I wonder if anyone actually did. But I digress. Young children, especially those who are encountering homework for the first time, don’t have any preconceived notions of how awful or tiresome homework is if parents don’t say anything.
For early elementary school age students, homework is really more of a review and doesn’t entail the same amount of work we parents dealt with when we were in high school and college so it doesn’t necessarily have to be the torture we remember it to be.
But if, from the very start, parents are already making comments on the inconvenience of having homework and other negative statements, children will immediately catch on and grow up conditioned to see homework as an unpleasant chore.
2. Teach according to how your child learns best.
Just as every child is different, so are everybody’s learning abilities and methods. Some people are naturally drawn to the written word or visual images, while others have to have a more concrete example or actual demonstration. The important thing is to remember that whatever your personal learning method was, it won’t necessarily be the same for your child. Try to keep this in mind and enjoy the process of discovering what works best for your child.
3. Set a specific, consistent and conducive time for homework.
Personally, this is the toughest part for me, and I would imagine, for many other parents out there. While we can plan most of our days, we never really know where it will take us or what will come up. But if you can, try to set a time that you know you can meet most of the time. This will help train your child to set aside a specific time for studying everyday and hopefully, instill good study habits for the future.
On days when I know I won’t be able to make it home in time or I will have to leave before our appointed hour, I rearrange my daughter’s schedule as much as it can be rearranged, so that we don’t waste any time. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, or guilty justification, but hopefully, this teaches her how to be flexible and adaptable to changes while still getting the work done.
When it comes to picking a conducive hour for homework, I stay away from sleeping and eating time because just like any person, nobody is happy when they are hungry or sleepy!
I also always schedule my daughter’s playtime after homework for several reasons. The most obvious reason is so that she doesn’t run out of time to do her homework, and I don’t have to play the role of the villain who cuts her playtime short so she can study. But another reason is I want her to have something she can look forward to. Even if I can somehow convert homework time into a pleasant experience for both of us, I am not deluding myself into believing that this is something a child would prefer over playtime. With playtime coming after homework, then I can give her something to help her unwind and relax.
4. Have an approximate knowledge of your child’s abilities so you don’t underestimate or overestimate them.
Over the summer, my daughter’s school sent a reading list with corresponding response forms which seemed like a baby book report. I couldn’t imagine how my daughter was going to get any of it done, but to my surprise, she tackled the task with delight as she happily drew her favorite characters and wrote simple answers to the questions.
On the other hand, when I would sit with her for her reading and math enhancement worksheets, I would get so frustrated because the worksheets seemed so simple, yet they were obviously not as easy for my daughter. It took a while for me to finally see things through my daughter’s eyes. I realized that at her age, a lot of mathematical concepts are still very abstract and need to be explained very thoroughly.
5. Don’t do your child’s work for them.
Oh, this is tempting. Especially when I am rushing for something or exhausted from the day. The answer is so simple and easy, it would be so much easier for everyone if I could just give it to her! On other days, it’s the process of arriving at the answer. By (over) guiding them step by step, even if we stop short of giving the answer, we practically spoon-feed it to them, which prevents them from learning and having the opportunity to take pride in arriving at the correct answer by themselves.
6. End your homework time on a high note.
No matter how tiring or stressful it may have been for both of us, I now try to make sure that we end things on a high note by saying something nice. I try to avoid empty and generic praises and instead, highlight specific positive things, such as maybe how she took initiative to answer more than what was asked for, or how she concentrated on her task without being told twice (or thrice, but who is counting?)
In the beginning, the amount of time it would take us to finish working or the number of times I had to repeat myself always seemed to cloud my vision, and we would end just happy to have it over with. But now that I make it a point to have something good to say after, I have to keep my eyes open throughout our session, and I am surprised to see so many little positive things I used to miss out on.