Homework Strategies: Version 2.0

©Ladder/Flickr
©Ladder/Flickr


I am in awe of homeschoolers.

Our little one is a highly creative thinker with a flair for drama. Homework is a major negotiation every afternoon. She has dutifully kept her rear in a chair for the past several hours, and now it is time to par-tee. She pirouettes around the living room in lieu of math. Freestyles ELA vocab lists into goofy poems. Stages meltdowns at the proper cues.

It’s more like open-mic night at the club than an after-school homework session.

But when she settles in, she knocks it out of the park. It is about tuning in and staying tuned in for that short while—which I know can be a challenge after a long day at school.

I joke with her that if we were to homeschool, I’d be so burnt by the end of the day of schoolwork drama that she’d have to get herself a bowl of cereal for dinner and I’d be in bed by 8 o’clock.

Thankfully she also understands my wry humor, and finds this hilarious. Hand on forehead in faux exhaustion, she acts out Mommy going to bed by 8.

But it is probably pretty close to the truth.

We have gained a little maturity around here since our earlier homework posts. We are nearing 4th Grade, and prepping for that change that will be Middle School (cue horror-flick music).

So, here are some fresh ideas for getting that work done. And done well.

First: Transitions are huge—maybe the most important part of the process.

To avoid surprises, we have a set standard for homework time

1. Home
2. Snack
3. 15-minute break
4. Homework

So, she expects the expected. She may not love it. That 15 minutes may lag a bit here and there. But it is the rule of law and she knows it.

Second: Embrace (for lack of a better word) the transition into doing the actual work.

Know that there will be drama and prepare thy self.

This way, I do not make the mistake of meeting her drama with drama of my own. That “here we go again!” feeling can really take over.

In terms of handling drama, I’m kind of on the fence about deep breathing. It sounds great, and I know it works. But when I am facing frustration, I become a little rebellious. “Deep breathing? Yeah right.”

Usually I’ll take a step back and busy myself and approach her when I feel calm.

The non-dramatic response to her drama keeps things on a level plane. She is watching me for my response. If I get riled up, she owns the moment, and—lo and behold!—homework is delayed. Mission accomplished.

Third: Don’t let the turkeys get us down – the little stuff can make or break the process:

Arrive prepared:

Have a backup pencil.

Have the homework all in one place.

Be willing to brainstorm answers for a bit to get her back on task.

Take a mini silly-break or hug-break if/when needed.

Be prepared for the onslaught of issues that will arise: “I’m hungry,” “I need the bathroom,” “I’m too hot.” Meet each of these with awareness of the bigger idea – the kid feels the need to escape.

Disappear so she can truly concentrate once dialed in.

Eventually she is “on a roll.”

Don’t interrupt. Go pretend to dust something (or actually dust something) far away but within earshot.

Hold breath.

Watch for new wiggling and intercept as necessary.

Settling into homework is a skill like any other. It must be learned, coached, even coaxed at times. But we will keep at it. And every year sees improvement.

And someday, in the distant future, I imagine her looking wistfully back at the days when Mom so patiently worked with her on how to “buckle down and get it done.” Well, maybe.