Make homework fun…again, in the end, it is a choice to have fun!

Parenting is an easy job?  A simple job?  Having had experience being a father since 1994, not once but doubled that responsibility in 1996, I can tell you it is one of the most challenging and BEST jobs in the world.  I bring to your attention to a recent article that actually has me concerned that “today’s” parents are looking to simplify one of the most challenging and BEST jobs in the world.  My goodness, why must we make things easier or simpler and then believe by making things easier or simpler, the outcome is going to be as “rich?”  From my experience, I am so glad that I never asked for the BEST job to be easy or simple, because I knew that being a dad was going to be demanding!  Haven’t you ever worked with people before?  Don’t you recognize the challenges of working with people?  Now, imagine those challenges twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with the same person for many, many years!  AND THIS PERSON IS YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER.  You might think:  hey, I helped create you, why the difficult time?  UNCONDITIONAL LOVE is the answer.

The district I work in went through – still going through – the “homework-battle.”  So, this SALON article (just so you know… I am not “Salon-Fan”), HOMEWORK IS WRECKING OUR KIDS:  THE RESEARCH IS CLEAR, LET’S BAND ELEMENTARY HOMEWORK by Heather Shumaker speaks to a current issue.  The title is “shocking.”  How could we endorse / support something that wrecks our children? (SARASM).  The title did what a title is meant to do:  get our attention.

Attitude.  (Harris) Cooper compiled 120 studies in 1989 and another 60 studies in 2006.  This comprehensive analysis of multiple research studies found no evidence of academic benefit at the elementary level.  It did, however, find a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school.  A child just beginning school deserves the chance to develop a LOVE OF LEARNING.  Instead, homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning.  Attitude?  So, let’s go back to parenting…  I would guess the negative attitude towards homework is supported by the parents’ “struggle” to get their child to do their homework.  We are so ready to blame or give credit for our attitude on others or a thing.  When in fact, we choose our attitude.  Studies show we choose our attitude.  The parent rolling eyes; “Mr. Johnson is an idiot; don’t worry about it Billy, your teacher can’t do that — is going to help with attitude in enjoying homework?  To your child that homework is getting you ready for “real” homework as an adult.

Then there’s the damage to personal relationships.  In thousands of homes across the country, families BATTLE over homework nightly.  PARENTS NAG AND CAJOLE.  Overtired children protest and cry.  Instead of connecting and supporting each other at the end of the day, too many families find themselves locked in the “did you do your homework?” cycle.  Remember the opening paragraph of this blog:  today’s parents are looking for easier or simpler lives in parenting.  Sure, you – the parent – are exhausted and overwhelmed, but your child needs you.  I do agree homework for elementary school children should be something that parents do with their children.  READ TO THEM.  That is suggested in the article.  What works better than traditional homework at the elementary level is simply reading at home.  This can mean parents reading aloud to children as well as children reading.  The key is to make sure it is joyous.  There is that responsibility of attitude:  JOYOUS.  The child can really sense when the parent is joyous spending time with them.  Doing homework together can be a great thing.  Or the two of you sitting at a table and you working on a project, while your son is working on his homework is cool!  Many times, I would stay up until my child as a high school student completed his / her homework.  Just as a sign as, “We are in this together.”  If I didn’t have a project, I would read a book or a magazine or write the teacher a nasty email (just joking with that last one).  Just be present with my child.

Why not hold parents accountable in a fun way?  Answer:  Because, parents today are too tired / too stressed / overwhelmed with responsibilities outside the home / and frankly, many of the parents are too sensitive.  Ask them.  They will tell you how difficult life is. “Mr. Teacher, you don’t understand!  I am a single-parent.  I don’t have time to read to my child.”  As a child of a single-parent home, that previous sentence was difficult for me to write and then read.  “I don’t have time for my child” is what I read.  The teacher then becomes the villain because the teacher was insensitive to all those single-parents who “don’t have time for their child.”  Another example of how the lack of trust and communication between parent and teacher negatively impacts the child.  For gosh sakes, build trust and go to the teacher and the two of you figure out a way to get that elementary school student the support he/she needs outside the classroom.  Maybe the teacher and the parent can set-up “READING BUDDIES.”  There are parents who “don’t have time for their child.” That carries with them a lot of guilt. Okay, find the surrogate parent and get the child the help / support!  FIGURE IT OUT!

From reading this article, I again see folks blaming teachers and parents not accepting the role of parenting.  Teachers are pressed to get students to learn the material to get to the next level.  They need parents support / active support.  However, when the child is crying / screaming that there is too much homework, it is now easy to blame the teacher, oppose to “knuckle down and get it done.”  The article is spot on that we need to be careful with the amount of homework and the purpose of homework for elementary school children, but as the child grows, so should their academic responsibilities outside the classroom grow (which the article gently suggests).  We will always have homework:  time with spouse/partner; laundry; cooking; if a parent, CHILDREN.  Our responsibilities outside of our workday (their school day) will always be homework.  Learn to deal with it.

Elementary school kids deserve (there is that “lovely” entitlement word:  deserve) a ban on homework.”  Are you sure, Ms. Shumaker, that you don’t really mean to write “Parents of elementary school kids deserve a ban on homework?”  Children are going to do what we adults want them to do.  If parents had a better attitude and/or relationship with their child’s teacher (and yes, vise-versa) in working together on how to make homework successful (fun is important, too), I bet the children would excel at homework.  But, when the parents’ attitude is one of resentment for loss of personal time, give their kids, the joy of learning probably declines.  If the teacher would show a sign of empathy, I can see “optional homework” working (at the elementary level).  The teacher could have teams and the team that has the most minutes of “homework with an older person (some kids don’t have moms / dads / and such)” goes to lunch first on Friday.  We need to make homework fun and in our current culture have an “award / payment” (go to lunch first / ice cream Friday (be careful with allergies) / etc.) for that fun usually adds to the fun.  And again, we will have homework for the rest of our lives:  spouse; garden; home improvement projects; and yes, if we are blessed…children.