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Hateful Homework: It doesn't have to ruin your family

Balancing homework and extra-curriculars
I'm a believer in homework. Not to the point of eliminating extra curricular activities, but the reinforcement of skills learned at school through practice at home makes a great deal of sense to me. Further, it offers me a deeper understanding of my child's learning process and lets me know where he needs extra support.
That's not to say I enjoy monitoring homework. My kids argue, moan and try to avoid it. It's a headache, no doubt, but one I feel pays off in the end. What is the end? For me, its a child who can more easily navigate his world and take command of his situation. Not only because he's honing math, reading, science or computer skills, but because he is practicing "toughness". He is acquiring the skill to push through unpleasant tasks and get the job done.
Not everyone agrees with me. Detractors cite interference with family time and unnecessary stress. One mom went as far as to say it was actually ruining her family. Her daughter had so much homework, she was stressed out and unwilling to help around the house. The assignments severely restricted her time for the extra curricular activities she enjoyed. She would come home exhausted from the rigors of the school day, then deprived of the activities which helped her relax. She became highly argumentative which created an atmosphere of family discord. 
Clearly, that's no good! As mentioned above, I don't think homework should come at the cost of outside activities or the essential time families spend connecting with one another. I come from a family of athletes. If it weren't for after-school sports, my kids might explode (and I'm only partially joking).
So, if your child has so much homework that she doesn't have time to do things she enjoys, talk to her. Find out what subject is generating the most homework. See if there's something she's struggling with that perhaps a few after-school sessions with a tutor or her teacher might straighten out. If that isn't the answer, here's what you can do:
1. Talk with her teacher. Ask how long assignments should take to complete and how many assignments will be given. Explain that along with her other courses, the load appears to be too heavy. Her teacher may have strategies to help or, he or she may simply agree with you. It has happened before! Also, be open-minded. Perhaps, just perhaps, there's something your daughter hasn't shared with you. For instance, maybe she sits next to a friend who is distracting her from the material presented in class. Or (this has been the case for one of my kids) she is not using her classroom time efficiently. Many teachers offer students the chance to work on homework once their classwork is completed.
2. Create a homework routine. In our house, homework gets done right after school (quick snack first, though). Establishing a schedule lets your kids know what's going to happen before they even walk through the door. It cuts down on time wasted saying, "Get your homework done" twenty times, and her responding, "Ok, just a minute," twenty times. Especially when you BOTH know, "just a minute" equals at least thirty! My kids are easily motivated by sports. The rule is, if homework isn't finished, they don't go to practice.
Not everyone has this luxury, but I am also available right after school to help. Which leads me to the next point...
3. Get involved.  You may not be home or available to help while your child is doing the work, but ask to see it from time to time. Offer up some compliments or advice. Be cautious, though. Kids can detect veiled criticism and nothing shuts them down faster! They may not thank you for it, but it has been my experience that when a child is discussing (or complaining about) an assignment or project, it helps to have someone who knows what he or she is talking about. 

4. Be sympathetic, but firm.  Most of us had to do homework and most of us hated it, also. While writing this article, my son saw me looking at site that asked "Should homework be banned?" With a sudden burst of enthusiasm, he urged me to respond "YES!!!" I laughed. He fake sulked then laughed, too. No, that wasn't an example of me showing sympathy ("Obviously", you huff under your breath). Having said that, sympathy comes in different colors and flavors. Humor can be used as an expression of sympathy. It just depends on what speaks to your child. With my oldest, humor works well. My middle needs a pat on the back and a "You've got this, bro".  But just as important, they understand that no amount of begging, whining or complaining will get them out of their responsibilities.
In no way am I telling you that homework will become hassle free by following these tips. They are kids, after all. But is it important to practice the skills they've learned at school? I think so. Does it have to be a choice between homework and family time/extra-curricular activities? Absolutely not. My kids are all competitive athletes and decent musicians who still manage more than a few hours of video games, tv and just playing in the pool.
And just in case you arrived at this article via search engine, we are Care to Click. When you purchase school supplies (or anything, actually!) through our shopping page, it helps to build schools in impoverished areas around the world at no additional cost to you. Pretty great, right?
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