By Meghan Hunter
It is not that homework itself is so bad, it is simply that it interferes with other more entertaining or social pursuits. As parents, we are faced with the challenging title of “Enforcer.” The homework is assigned, gingerly wadded and shoved in the bottom of the backpack, and sent home.
Soon after baseball practice, gymnastics, swimming, and piano lessons, our precious cherub faced elementary kids, awkward middle school kids, or sullen teenagers plop down on the sofa to relax and are immediately confronted by the looming question, “Honey, do you have any homework?”
At this point, one of three things will occur. The cherub will immediately run to their backpack, take out their assignment and get to work in the designated homework area with a perfectly sharpened pencil. The awkward growing child, will tell you that they are starving and could not possibly concentrate until the pantry has been completely emptied, or you may simply get, “No, I don’t have any homework.” 95% of the time, this answer is false information and prompts “The Enforcer” to dive headfirst into the backpack in search of the wadded paper in the bottom.
Chapter two of our evening begins when the homework finally makes it out of the backpack. “The Enforcer” glances over the child’s shoulder only to discover that a sharpened pencil and a tidy, well-lit desk are not going to be enough to complete this assignment, the likes of which anyone over the age of 35 has never seen before!! As our child gets more involved in their homework, parents start to busy themselves with things around the house content with the fact that their student must be a genius to understand the assignment sitting in front of them. All of a sudden we look over only to discover that our student’s brow is furrowed and they appear confused. Their child looks to them as the “all-knowing fixer of all things,” and states simply, “I don’t get this. Can you help me?” Our well-meaning parent freezes like a deer caught in the headlights…
Education has been changing along the same lines as our society in general. To put it simply, kids know more than their parents did at the same age and they work very differently than we did. With technology and information at their fingertips, students are equipped and able to take their learning to new levels, sometimes surpassing what their parents can comfortably help them with. They are also faced with a new level of apathy toward tasks they find mundane or not useful. The age old argument of mathematics practice not being worth the time because, “I can just use a calculator,” is always a fun Tuesday night battle! The reality of course is that most parents know the value of logic, reasoning, problem solving, and mental acuity that math practice provides, but how do we explain that to an eighth-grader more interested in what their best friend just posted on Facebook?
As a certified teacher, owner of an education-based business, and mother of middle school boys, I am fairly sure that the above scenario
is only a somewhat exaggerated reality in many homes on any given school night. However, no matter where your children fall in terms of age, ability, and motivation, parents share an overwhelming desire to support their children to the best of their ability and see them succeed. Here are a few ways for you to support your child through tough spells of homework, projects, and motivational valleys.
Showing a genuine interest in your child’s struggles is automatic for most parents. The key is to take our interest and turn it into effective ways to support our child. Be aware of the fact that your children are unique individuals with unique interests. We as parents may not always be the best source of help for our kids. Be sure that you allow them their own successes and failures without projecting yours on them. Learning together and showing genuine interest is healthy and rewarding, but there will be times that parents should step back and “outsource.” Encourage your student to learn about subjects they are interested in. Self-motivated learners are likely to find connections in their academic pursuits that may spark interest in other subjects. Finally, remember that at the end of the day, you are not just the “Enforcer,” but also the coach, shoulder to lean on, and cheerleader. Help your student find and decipher information, independently produce something they can be proud of, and forge their own unique path.
Meghan Hunter is the owner of Mathnasium in Boerne. Mathnasium specializes in focused math tutoring for all levels of education. (830) 331-8414 www.mathnasium.com/boerne
Parents want to be all things to their children, but that is not realistic. Remember that it is OK if you do not know the answer. Try to help find the answer or guide your student to the answer through all of the resources available to you such as teachers, peers, online resources, and experts. Encourage independence and creativity, and stay positive.
• Invite a study group over to your house. It may cost you a lot of snacks, but the kids will have support from each other, and you may learn something as well!
• Visit teacher websites for clarification, information, and suggested resources. Make it easy by adding direct links from your computer desktop for each subject.
• Don’t be afraid to admit you do not know something or can’t remember. Learning side by side can be very rewarding and supportive.
• Encourage and support self-driven learning.
• Point out ways that you use “skills you were taught in school.”
• Maintain some form of academic pursuit over summer breaks. The “summer slide” is a reality.
• Use on-line resources to help encourage and motivate your student. Everything imaginable is on the internet. Art museums, science museums, historical societies, math games, writing resources, etc. are all at your fingertips. Digging deeper into a subject can sometimes spark interest.
• Do not project your struggles on to your child. Allow them to find their niche.
• Stay positive even through the struggles.
• Do not be afraid to seek professional help. Tutors and mentors are available through the school, the retail sector, and privately. This can be an especially important option if family tension is developing over homework.