When Buttercup was in 7th grade, we had this conversation:
Me: I checked your grades and it says you are missing a math assignment.
B: I know. I asked him which problems I was supposed to do, and he hasn't told me yet.
Me: Um, he did his job 3 weeks ago when he assigned the homework. He told you then which problems to do. You chose not to write it down or do them, so it's now on you. Do the entire page.
B: But there are 40 problems!
Me: Well, I guess you'll get plenty of practice for the test then, won't you?
Soon after that, I had a conference with the math teacher, and this assignment came up. I told him what I told her. He was astounded and replied, "I really wish more parents took that stand. I get so many emails from parents asking which problems their children need to do."
In 7th grade.
I have seen it. As a teacher and as a parent, I have seen so many parents taking charge of their children's work. I know they do it thinking they are helping their kids. I know they do it out of love for their kids and their desire for them to succeed. Unfortunately, while it may help a child get a certain grade in that class, it isn't helping the child to prepare to be successful later on in life.
From the beginning, kids should own their homework. It is not my job to stand over them while they do it, making sure they do every problem correctly. It is my job to give them tools in order for them to be successful and to assist them when they come across a problem or assignment they just can't figure out themselves. Some kids need this more than others.
I have three kids who have never had to be reminded to do homework. It's a rare day that they ask me for help. I have no idea what they are doing on any given day.
I have a first grader who would lose his head if it wasn't attached. Oftentimes, he forgets instructions 5 seconds after they are given. I have a teenager who was flunking classes, all because homework wasn't getting done. These two kids need help.
Some ways to help without taking over:
Have a routine. As much as possible, have the same order of events each day. We may not get home after school at the same time every day, but once we are home, we follow the same schedule of do chores, eat snack, do homework. Things aren't forgotten as easily when it's the same every day.
Have a place to do homework and the supplies he needs to do it. Some kids need quiet and separation from the family noise. Other kids like to be in the middle of the activity and can get things done in the midst of it. Figure out how a child does best and figure out a way to give it to him. We have desks situated around the house, and kids that need them use them. Make sure pencils (and a pencil sharpener) and paper are available so he can actually do the assignments.
Give the child a planner and check to make sure he's using it. Both of the schools our kids attend give planners to everyone. If yours doesn't, buy one. I know a lot of schools have homework online now, but the child has more ownership if he writes things down as they are assigned. He (not you) can check the website to make sure he got everything.
When a child says he's done, compare his planner to the assignments he did. It is amazing the difference in attitude a child can have when he knows he has to prove he's done his homework. Simply asking him if he finished isn't enough. (Even good kids lie.) I don't go through to make sure he did the homework correctly, but I do take a glance to make sure he finished all of the problems. This takes all of 45 seconds.
Teach your child how to study. When the kids are little, quizzing your child on his spelling words is normal and helpful. As the child gets older, though, studying needs to be done more on his own. Some kids need to be taught how to study. Making flashcards throughout the chapter, outlining, answering questions at the end of the chapter, taking online practice tests...all can be done without a parent once he knows how. In high school, Phoenix found that doing homework or studying with someone in his class was very beneficial. I agree. Talking through difficult questions oftentimes helps organize thoughts.
We learned one lesson the hard way. Constantly fighting and arguing about homework is nothing but destructive. The conversation that made this very clear for me was another one I had with Buttercup. Phoenix had been on a Boy Scout camping weekend, and she said to me, "I miss Phoenix, but I really don't miss the arguing. It is so much more peaceful when he's not here."
If your child is struggling with homework, find out why. Is the material too hard? Perhaps he's in the wrong class. Is he just too tired? Perhaps he's involved in too many activities. Is he having trouble sitting still? Perhaps he needs a break before or in the middle of homework time. (Give him a timer, so when he takes a break he doesn't forget to go back to the homework!) Does he just want some attention? Play a game or read a book with him before homework time.
But while you are figuring it out, don't turn your house into a war zone, where every night involves a fight over homework. Let it go. After that conversation with Buttercup, we gave up the fighting. Our kids are with us such a short time, and we don't want them to look back on it and remember our home as a place of turmoil.
If you are having trouble with your child regarding school work, let me know. I'll be happy to pray for you.
Have a lovely day!