If last year’s homework situation in your home could best be described as tense, stressful, or excruciating, don’t despair
More Home, Less Work
Q: Why did the boy eat his homework?
A: His teacher told him it was a piece of cake.
It’s back-to-school season, and that means school supplies, meeting new teachers, and everyone’s favorite — homework!
If last year’s homework situation in your home could best be described as tense, stressful, or excruciating, don’t despair. There is hope! We can change the experience for both parents and children by changing our homework paradigm and practices.
Homework is meant to be a review of new materials learned, or additional practice to strengthen a skill or concept, and often gives parents a glimpse into their child’s academic life — the easy parts — and the struggles.
Adding in a layer of life skills can make this an opportunity to help children with time management, planning, prioritizing, task initiation and completion, problem- solving, and communication. Knowing homework time is teaching children valuable adult skills needed in the real world can help parents feel more invested in making this work.
Here are some simple suggestions to facilitate this:
- Location, location, location. Help your children identify two spots in your home where homework can be done. One should be near an adult, and should be designated as the place to do basic written tasks and organize themselves for the next day. The second should be a quieter location that can be used for studying without background noise or distractions.
- Having the right things in the right place at the right time makes all the difference. Purchase extra school supplies during back-to-school sales and make them easily available. Don’t let kids waste precious time and energy searching for a pencil, sharpener, Wite-Out, or highlighter. Include sticky notes and a mini-whiteboard, if you can.
- Consider setting up a mystery box with some objects that make homework more fun. Change up what’s inside periodically. Think about including a sand timer, bookmarks, a stress ball or slime, a digital recorder, cool pens, and some small prizes.
- Select a dedicated homework time daily when an adult is available nearby to assist. This helps kids with routine and structure.
- Unless your child wants to get homework out of the way right after school, let them relax and eat something first. None of us would want our boss waiting for us as soon as we came home with more work to do.
- Encourage kids to check their planners or make a verbal or written to-do list of what homework they have. Then guide them to schedule their workload, their studying, items needed for the next day, along with some breaks. Chunk larger assignments or projects into manageable tasks.
- Generally speaking, it’s recommended to get easier or written work out of the way before proceeding to harder items or studying. Most children will have scant energy reserves left after doing work that requires tremendous concentration.
- Communicate with your children’s teachers about their homework expectations— i.e., what is generally given (“Ma, I promise she never gives homework!”), how long it should take, if it requires a signature, and what to do if it seems too difficult or takes too long.
- Guide your child with study skills: songs, flashcards, clues and cues, and memory aids like visual mapping or mnemonics. You can help them discover their individual learning styles and what works for them.
- Know that not every parent is the ideal homework assistant. If necessary, consider hiring a tutor, homework helper, or high-school student to support your child. Ask for accommodations or modifications if a child is struggling.
- Remember that a successful day in school begins the night before. Children can organize everything they will need into a central location— a bookbag with everything inside, including completed and signed items; snacks or lunch; tzedakah money; supplies; and even a coat and shoes if that will help the mornings be less stressful.
- Know the difference between reminding, checking, and helping, versus nagging, criticizing, and doing your child’s work.
- Remember to validate and praise. For some kids, homework is hard work. You need to be your child’s cheerleader, not the opposing team.
Hopefully, this year, with an attitude shift and the right setup, homework will become more home and less work for both you and your children.
Zipora Schuck MA. MS. is a NYS school psychologist and educational consultant for many schools in the NY/NJ area. She works with students, teachers, principals, and parents to help children be successful.
Guilt, shame, regret… they dig their claws into our psyche and threaten to never let go. With each dig, another piece of our soul is torn.
Yet we know that charatah, regret, is a crucial, unavoidable part of the teshuvah process. How do we feel regret without tearing apart the fabric of our being? How do we stay whole so we can serve with a full heart? How can we stay tender in the face of gnawing shame?
Compassion seems to be the answer. We fully acknowledge and take responsibility for what we did and we recognize that those actions came from a place of confusion, anger, shame, or ignorance. We hold both the accountability and the gentle understanding at once. We recognize that we know more today than we did yesterday, and that on any given day we can only access the wisdom we hold that day. This allows us to forgive ourselves. And the more adept we become at this, the more generously we can apply this compassion to others as well.
Hope appears to be the partner of compassion. Wishing we could have done things differently means we hold on to the hope that we can live by a higher standard. It’s the endorsement we give from ourselves to ourselves — I believe in you and I know that at your core you strive for truth, goodness, and integrity. You are not defined by your mistakes. You are capable of more. I do not give up on you because you occasionally stumble.
Hope allows us to channel regret into self-development and growth, as we hold on to our faith in ourselves, in others, and most of all, Hashem’s belief in our potential.
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed therapist, Directed Dating coach, and certified Core Mentor.
One step forward, two steps back. Ugh. Who wants to step back? We want only forward momentum — go, Go, GO!
Think of a child swinging across the monkey bars. Each time his hand grips the next bar, his body is carried forward, and then — watch carefully — he moves backward. But the backward movement isn’t an unfortunate byproduct of the forward movement; to the contrary, that’s what gives him the push forward.
When the “step back” part of a process feels wasteful and frustrating, remember, it isn’t just an annoying side effect — it’s what powers your next move.
Shoshana Schwartz specializes in compulsive eating, codependency, and addictive behaviors.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 858)
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