Family / Kids / Parenting

Winning the homework wars

i hate homework copy As the end of winter break inched closer, B-Man asked, “Do you like it better when we’re in school or when we’re out of school?”

“I love spending time with you guys,” I answered, “and when you’re home, I don’t get much work done. So I like both.”

But I left this part out: I was dreading the resurgence of The Homework War.

While B-Man completes his homework independently and with no fuss, getting K-Bird to finish a simple assignment is like trying to dress a Tasmanian devil in a onesie.

I knew I needed to change that dynamic, so in those last days before the school bell rang, I did some reflecting and I devised a new plan:

1) Check the attitude.

Truth: I hate K-Bird’s homework. Those Xeroxed worksheets waste time and energy we could spend on something rad, like exploding homemade volcanos, searching the local creek for wildlife, or taking a walking history tour to learn about important events the kids won’t hear about in school. My opinion about K-Bird’s worksheets results in a “let’s just f*ing get this over with” attitude that helps nobody at the kitchen table. Maybe I can rid myself of this responsibility and get some physics tutors for him so that he can finish his homework properly, and because it’s someone else teaching him, he probably won’t fuss about it either! Or maybe, I need to find some value in the homework or at least lose the bad attitude before the kid develops one, too.

2) Stop looking at the clock.

Yes, K-Bird has the skills to finish his work in twenty minutes or less. But the personality type? Not so much. Back in his preschool days, it took K-Bird approximately 45 minutes to walk from the parking lot to his classroom because “Look, Mommy, someone dropped glitter on the ground! Let’s pick it up! and Mommy, there’s a butterfly, let’s follow it through the garden!” Back then, I curbed my frustration over his slow progress by changing the name of our task from “getting to the classroom” to “enjoying quality time together.” What if I tried that now? In fact, this could be the driving force behind K-Bird’s antics. When homework time begins, he finally has my undivided attention, so he’s going to hold on to it for as long as he possibly can, stretching a ten-minute math assignment into forever with his perpetual interludes of song, dance, and storytelling. Let’s see what happens if I stop clock-checking and start connecting.

3) Get creative.

Focused on making homework time into quality time, during the first week back to school, I have employed tactics like these:

Singing instructions in a Dick-Van-Dyke-impersonating-Julie-Andrews falsetto
Requiring K-Bird to pronounce certain words in a Martian voice while reading aloud
Ordering hip hop dance breaks
Replacing the word “marbles” with “farts” in word problems
Offering true and specific, eye-contact-accompanied praise for work well done
Redirecting K-Bird’s attention, as Darth Vader
Discussing math concepts via a hand puppet (a.k.a. my hand) named Puppét

Though I’m not watching the clock anymore, I suspect the new tactics use up about as much time as arguing with K-Bird about how long the homework is taking, but they’re way more fun. And bonus! I have found the value in homework: shared laughter! When in doubt, make it funny.

4) Breathe.

As dedicated as I am to practicing this new approach to homework, sometimes I want to punch the part of me that says “Oh, come on! You can make this fun!” right in her chipper little face. When that happens, I breathe. Full, deep breaths, rising from my belly, expanding into my chest, all the way up to my shoulders, and right back down again. Three times. When I’m done, I look at K-Bird’s face, which is undeniably darling, even when it features cross-eyes and a tongue displaying chewed up pretzel mush. Taking three breaths presses the reset button. It works (almost) every time.

How do you handle homework in your house?

FEATURED PHOTO CREDIT: CHERYL DUMESNIL

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4 Comments

  1. I would like to invite you to come and do homework with my 12 year old. We have all the algebra tears over here.

    • When algebra strikes, I plan to trade tutoring hours with a math-savvy neighbor whose kid needs writing help. (Please let there be a math-savvy neighbor whose kid needs writing help!) But I’d be happy to provide some algebra jokes, if that would help?

  2. #3 !!! Brilliant ways to make homework fun! I share the same hatred for those boring, uninspired worksheets, but turning them into improv sounds like an activity we both would enjoy.

    I’d also like to recommend phoning a friend. When we have to come up with 8 words that end in “dge” or “tch” we FaceTime VQ Managing Editor Vikki! We BOTH appreciate playing word games with friends.

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