Education Let's Talk

#BacktoSchool: The Battle of Homework Hill

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

School will be back in session here soon, and once again we’ll begin the battle of homework hill. You know, the part where teachers assign huge projects, send them home for the kids to do, and leave unsuspecting parents to pick up the pieces the night before the project is due.

The thing is, kids need parents to be part of their success academically. They need you to teach them how to prioritize homework over video games; they need you to teach them how to break a big project down into manageable steps.

Doing homework at the end of a long work day, which usually means sitting at the computer for even longer than we already have isn’t always what we want to do. But as parents, it is certainly something our kids count on us to do.

It’s worse when our kids are not enthused about the assignment. It’s worse when our kids forget to tell us they need poster board (by tomorrow). But it is part of the back to school process.

We also understand that many times our supervision is necessary, which is not really what we want to do at the end of the day, but it is what it is. What makes this experience even more tedious is when the child is downright unhappy with the task of completing their assignments.

In our house, we require homework to be done before anything else. No computer time, no video games, no friend time, no iPods, no dance lessons, no guitar lessons until homework is done. We aren’t ogres. We let them go to the bathroom and get a snack.

Because our kids have had this expectation from the start, we no longer have to wrestle with them. They simply know it has to be done. It saves us the enormous stress of bedtime homework and the even lovelier early morning oops homework.

It’s not a perfect system, and there are times when we just can’t get all the math problems done before we have to head out the door for dance class. But for the most part, we’ve solved the battle of homework hill by making it the top priority – the JOB – for our kids after school.

When other activities are not allowed until after homework is done, kids often find a motivation to complete assignments that weren’t there before. It sets a standard of good priorities and gives your child time to complete everything. They may not be in love with the task but homework (done well) is non-negotiable.

Back to School

Back to School: Been Here Before but It’s All New

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

Well, it has been a while since I’ve found any time to think let alone write. I spent the summer having fun with the kids, and for some reason (probably their ages) I found that it took up almost all my time. That’s not a complaint, just how it turned out.

Now school has begun. My daughter is in third grade, which means transition from earning satisfactories to earning real grades. That makes me nervous. As a parent I believe it is my responsibility to support what she learns in school, and to encourage her to follow rules, follow directions, and strive to meet expectations. I’d like it if she would exceed expectations, but I want her to have fun and stay interested too. Delicate balance, that.

She’s been in school now for nearly a month. She started homework on the second day of school, and the battles have been consistent with what they were last year; however, the stakes are higher. It’s her homework, but I feel the pressure. I’m the one who has to ask if she has homework, knowing every day that she does. I’m the one who has to direct her to sit down to work on it. I’m the one who has to check over it and call her to task if she makes a mistake. Basically I’m the mean mommy overlord.

Then there’s my son who is beginning preschool. He doesn’t start until after Labor Day, but there’s a mountain of paperwork to fill out, a home visit to set up, a staggered entry day for him to attend, then his special services to schedule to address his autism. That doesn’t embarrass me or scare me for my son, but it does mean a lot more to keep up with making me his advocate.

My daughter has already noticed the different level of involvement I put in. She doesn’t fully understand the why, and points out the lack of fairness. I struggle to help her understand her new level of responsibility as a third grader and older sister, and to understand the differing needs of her brother as he’s entering preschool.

My mommy guilt level feels a bit high right now, no matter how much I try to stay focused on what needs doing for each of my children and loving them. I’ve already caught myself a few times stressing out, and baking more cookies than is wise. My husband has been doing his part, but even he looks at me with that pre-stress meltdown expression that has me scrambling to make sure things don’t crash around our ears.

Fortunately, things really are well in hand thanks to my organizational skills. It just feels like a lot to deal with. This is that time when things are changing, shifting, and we are trying to find our new normal. I know this. It happens every year, really. Back to school means back to routine and order, but first we must reestablish the routine and order.

And for me, this year’s routine and order is going to involve more.

Here’s hoping the adjustment goes well for us all.