Homework? Don't be a hater. You and your kid can enjoy it. Really.

Raise your hand if you hate homework! Not you. Your kids!

It’s my biggest beef: Some teachers think school should be a 24/7 experience for students.

I get that some work outside of school is necessary, but let’s be realistic: If adults were expected to put in a seven-hour day at work, go home, eat supper and then go back to work for several more hours, would they put up with that job very long? Of course not! We do to kids what we would never do to ourselves, and therein lies my resentment — and, I would guess, a lot of students’ resentment — of homework.

That being said, what I enjoyed about homework was the opportunity for quality time with my boys.

How often do you find yourself reflecting that the sheer volume of activities in your family’s schedule prevents you from spending enough quality time together? We often see homework as an obstacle to family connection, but it can actually be an opportunity for greater connection!

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It’s all about teamwork

Parents, you are a very important player on your child’s educational team, so approach homework with a team spirit. Here are some suggestions for keeping it relatively enjoyable for both of you:

Memorizing facts:

  • Make a memory game out of index cards by having your child put the word/concept on one card, the definition on another, lay them all out upside down on the table, and take turns picking up a card and matching it to its partner. The person with the most matches at the end of the game wins.
  • Create silly sentences made up of words/concepts that are hard to remember, like My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas = the nine planets (back when Pluto was a planet, anyway).
  • Put information into a tune your child already knows, like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
  • Have them draw a picture of a concept that will trigger their memory when they draw it in the margin of their test.

Reading assignments

  • Read textbooks together by taking turns with pages or sections, and notice things out loud. “That makes me think about…” or “I remember when….” Or pretend not to understand and ask your child to explain something to you. If they can’t, it’s time to reread and try again.

What if I really don’t understand?

I recall looking at my high school sophomore’s chemistry notes and thinking it looked like a foreign language. No way could I quiz him over that! So instead, I asked him to explain the notes to me.

If he couldn’t explain something, he could highlight it as something he needed to check in with the teacher about for his own learning.

Research reports

It is totally acceptable to research with your child (please note, I didn’t say for your child!) Sometimes, kids are given topics to research but they don’t have the first clue about what information is important. As you read an article together:

  1. Take turns telling each other what you found interesting and why, and decide whether that should be something they write in their notes.
  2. Help them color code notes with highlighters, grouping similar information that should go together into paragraphs.

Extra benefits

When you spend time doing homework with your child, you get a definite sense of their strengths and struggles, and you can discuss those with the teacher.

If your children aren’t being challenged enough, or if they are struggling so much that they’re losing motivation, the teacher needs to know so you can work together to determine how to help them. (Again, teamwork!)

You’re teaching life skills like persistence, creative thinking, time management, prioritizing tasks and work ethic.

The bottom line: Relationship

Some parents cross their arms and huff, “I’ve been to school. I did my homework! My kids need to do theirs!” While that may be true, those parents are missing out on meaningful connecting time and, I dare say, wonderful memories.

Of course, you don’t have to do everything together every day, so in those moments when your child is happily working independently, sit close by and do something you need to do. You can monitor progress, and being in each other’s presence, even when you’re not talking, is togetherness. Enjoy it.

Before you know it, your child will say, “I don’t need any help,” and my prediction is, you’ll be disappointed.

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