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Why I Don't Hate Homework: Part One

Like death and taxes, do you ever really escape homework? This week we are talking about the subject that every parent loves to hate. Should they?

Homework.

Need I say more? Is that groaning I hear, with maybe a few unmentionable words?

Once you’ve been a parent for a few years, you realize that as you make your way through each stage and maybe begin to feel competent, there are a whole new set of challenges waiting for you around the next corner.

After hearing the frustration expressed by friends, walking through the kindergarten gates I knew homework was sure to be one of those new challenges.

I don’t think homework has ever been popular with kids, but I am starting to understand why the word evokes such a strong reaction in parents. There are days I have to give myself a time-out (or three). Parents are known to drink their way through it. You know who you are.

Self-driven to learn

I’m a potential nightmare for my sons in the school department. I was one of those kids who naturally excelled in school, and also worked hard at it as well. I did well partly because I was expected to by my family, and I wanted to rise to their expectations, but more so because I just loved learning. I still do. I had great teachers, and I had terrible teachers; my parents were involved at times, but more frequently uninvolved. Regardless, I was self-driven to learn.

I feel a little sorry for my boys, because it won’t be easy for them to wiggle out of their abilities and potential with me, academic or otherwise. But, I also send my son off to school each day with the same message, with a very intentional emphasis: “Do your best, and have fun.”  

Ultimately my goal for my kids is that if they are “like me,” loving to learn is what we share. That’s the best motivator I know to inspire them to make the most of educational opportunities. 

I have had mixed feelings about homework (and especially for kindergarteners, like my son); I’m known to complain along with other parents during homework hours. I’ve been skeptical about how homework is compatible with my goal to foster a love of learning. In fact, I’d say I’ve had something of a chip on my shoulder about it.

But as a parent I challenge myself to keep an open mind (sometimes that requires a pry-bar), and I’m beginning to see a point to homework. Dare I say it? I’m beginning to see the potential of doing homework.

Here are some reasons I’m trying not to hate homework, for my children’s sake:

  • Learning discipline and responsibility. 

I very well may be “old-school,” but sustained effort to practice and master something isn’t a bad thing in my opinion. Taking responsibility for one’s own learning, even if it is not always fun and interesting pays dividends in life beyond classrooms. As a parent, I embrace opportunities for my child to learn this early. Even when something interests you, like playing an instrument, writing a story, or solving a math problem, your true talent goes unrealized without commitment to stick with it, regardless of if it is a day you can’t imagine doing anything else, or a day you want to quit.

That being said, the amount of homework, the type of homework, and the expectations about what role it plays in true learning needs to be kept realistic, and in check. I’ll have my child’s back on that as we go along. For an excellent commentary on learning, creativity and education, I highly recommend that every parent watch Sir Ken Robinson’s excellent TED talk on the subject.

  • Taking part in my child’s education. 

I’ve done my time as a student, and homework isn’t something I relish repeating, even at the supervisory level. But, I do love watching my son make connections, and when he learns something new, solves a problem, or shows his creativity and curiosity, that is thrilling, and gift for me to be there to see. Homework gives me that opportunity daily. I’m also gaining a direct understanding of what’s working and what isn’t working. As a result, I can better partner with his teachers to support his learning interests and challenges.

Unfortunately, since homework isn’t all rainbows and soaring heights of Einsten-like epiphanies, that also means I have to stick with him through the many, many, moments of mutual frustration, mistakes, “try it again,” “this is boring,” and “I can’t do its.”

That, as they say, is “parenting” folks.

Now it’s your turn to sound off about how you feel about homework. How does it affect your child, your family, and yourself? Does it help them learn, or hinder them?

Next week, I’ll share how we’re finding harmony in homework. If you have tips and strategies you would like to share, please email me (Kirsten.e.branch@gmail.com) or leave in comments.

This column originated on Danville Patch.

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