Deep beneath the soiled gym clothes, the crumpled math worksheet and the granola bar wrapper lay the silent enemy. Homework. This WFD (Weapon of Family Destruction) is a ticking time bomb that competes with the ticking of the clock on the kitchen wall.
Parents are engaged in a war with their children with no clear exit plan.
Day after day the battle intensifies as frazzled parents, with good intentions, try to help their children negotiate through the hours of homework.
Both child and parent have been sitting at the kitchen table since school let out. They already called the "Homework Hotline" at school and looked for the class assignment on the teacher's webpage. The child then calls a classmate for clarification on the homework assignment, with no answer. Parents yell out their home fax number while their child is leaving a message to "please" fax the instructions for the project. Seven- and 8-year-old children are crawling into bed at 11:00 p.m., having inhaled their improvised dinner of a protein bar and a Diet Coke.
It is usually after a stalemate that could last days or weeks that I come in. I am equipped with the skill to disarm the ticking time bomb, alleviate the pressure between the parent and child and reassess the situation. I am the tutor.
I knock on the door with toolkit in hand, patience and no shared DNA. I show up every day and provide a sense of relief to both children and parents. It's palpable. I find an exhausted 8-year-old with his head on the table, an empty Diet Coke can and a blank expression followed by a low grumble, "I hate school, I hate my teacher, I wish she would die."
One of the first questions I ask is, "Where is you planner?" We usually go through the planner, find the loose worksheets and attach them to a clipboard. We put everything else away. The simple act of organizing relieves some of the tension. Next, we go over what he needs help with and what he can do without me. And we are off. This time spent organizing brings calm to the situation, re-orients the child and gives him a fresh look at what is in front of him.
As a parent you can do exactly what I do and save yourself the expense of a tutor -- and the dread of homework. Let your child know that collectively you will be doing things differently. Trust me, she wants someone to help set the tone and take charge. Teach your child to take charge of her education. Help her set up a structure that works with her personality. Encourage her to create her own homework ritual; this will help her predict what the next night of homework will look like, and so on.
Create a homework space. I prefer a dinning room table so there is plenty of room to spread out. Reduce the noise level in the study area. No vacuuming, no television, no putting away dishes, running the dishwasher, and talking on the phone. These distractions drive me insane; imagine a child who is trying to memorize a poem.
Here are the next steps:
1. Find out what is due and when. Prioritize assignments. Keep a homework calendar on the refrigerator so you can keep track of long and short-term assignments. Most teachers provide students with upcoming assignments. If not, ask them. Be sure to write the due date on the assignment.
2. Have references and materials accessible. Be sure to have a dictionary, Internet access, and textbooks near the workspace. Have plenty of paper, markers, sharpened pencils, index cards and an eraser.
3. Stay organized. Encourage your child to weed through his papers and file work that he may need in the future, like quizzes, chapter reviews and tests. Cluttered binders are difficult to navigate. Specify a folder for "homework."
4. Communicate. Let your child know that you are an advocate for her. Be sure to communicate with the teacher, let your child know that you are there to support her.