Managing the H-Word

Seeking help for the homework headache.

Ever since my daughter started having homework in 1st grade, it’s been a rather dirty word around here. The idea that she should do schoolwork when she could be writing songs, climbing trees, or otherwise piddling around has just never seemed right to her. Therefore, she almost never concedes without a struggle.

Having been the parent who primarily deals with this ongoing, unpleasant situation, I was ready to throw my hands up this school year and allow my daughter to suffer whatever consequences her teachers might dish out for incomplete homework assignments. My teacher-husband did not like this strategy though – his pet peeve being parents who claim they “just can’t” get their son/daughter to do their homework. My supposition is, however, that it wouldn’t take more than one embarrassing instance at school to get my daughter to start assuming responsibility for her work here at home. Either way, it’s a tough call.

For starters, I think all kids should undoubtedly have some unstructured, semi-mindless play each and every day. This can be tough to fit in if kids participate in any extra-curricular activities, which mine do. Graciously, their teachers never assign homework that’s due the following day – they generally have at least a week to complete their work, sometimes more. This has its pros and cons, though.

On the one hand, this approach aids in teaching time-management, or at least it’s supposed to. When my daughter receives an assignment that’s not due for several weeks, her procrastinating brain writes it off as something she needn’t give another thought to for quite some time. To be entirely honest, I’m envious of how she can block things out that need doing and enjoy herself to the fullest, without a care in the world.

I have never been able to do this. If I have a deadline, it looms over me until I’ve made sufficient progress. Even my 6-year-old wants to begin his homework immediately after it’s assigned and feels panicked if it isn’t well underway several days before the due date. What a gift, I think, to be able to seize the day by doing what you love most, unencumbered by thoughts of pending work.

So, you can see my dilemma. How do I get such a carefree child to take the homework reigns? Is there an ideal approach? I do think having a monthly calendar for writing down and seeing upcoming assignments may help. I’ve also made it clear that there will be no weekend sleepovers or lengthy events if there’s still a good bit of homework left to tackle by week’s end.

While this reminder results in lots of tear-shedding, yelling, and basic fit-pitching, it’s generally quite effective. It’s just such a bum rap being the enforcer, the one toward whom all frustration is focused and, in essence, “The Mean Mom.” Was this really in my job description? I hear all you moms of grown kids laughing, because you know that the job description is so long there’s no way they could’ve fit it all on the hospital discharge papers when we left with our bundles of joy.

Aye, there’s the rub: Finding the joy in homework; taking the “work” out of “homework;” how to make homework something besides a four-letter word times two. If you have the answers, please do tell. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep my balance between tongue-biting and standing firm while my hair turns grayer by the day.  


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