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“Do you have homework? Go do your homework! Did you do your homework? Not before you do your homework.”

Do these sentiments sound familiar? Many mothers begin repeating this mantra as soon as their children come home, although just as many resent the fact that although they are no longer in school, homework is still very much their responsibility.

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We suffered enough over homework when we were young; don’t we have enough to do with our overly scheduled lives? Why can’t kids just do homework in school?

Here’s my take on the homework battles.

Although my children are still young, I am not, and I remember what homework was like for me and my friends – the kids who did their homework did well in school, and the kids who didn’t, well, they did not do well.

So it’s pretty crucial to make sure homework is something kids do, and if they are going to do it five nights a week, they really should enjoy doing so. After all, it’s kinda of wasteful to be spending all that money on tuition just to have your kids space out during class because they fell behind by not doing their homework.

“But…” you sputter, “I work! I have small children! I have to put up dinner! I need to check Facebook!” All valid excuses, it is true, but that won’t change the fact that your child is failing in school because he or she is not reviewing schoolwork. If you cannot do homework with your child, you must hire someone. I know that sounds harsh, because money is always tight, but consider it part of tuition. Also, homework needs to be done at a designated time so that you can avoid the whole power struggle and repeated, “Did you do your homework yet?” If you do not have the ability to set aside this time with your child, find someone who can.

In my house, I like to give my children a chance to unwind and eat dinner before homework. In homes where dinner is not ready until later, you could give your child a healthy snack first and then have him or her sit down to work.

Children need a comfortable, reasonably quiet, non-distracting place to work. This can be challenging to find, especially if there are other children in the household. I would suggest places like a parent’s bedroom, or even a large closet, any place that allows a child to have his or her own personal space. Make sure that designated place has a drawer or box with all the necessary supplies, so at the designated time they can be pulled out and the child can get to work.

Many parents complain that their children have too much homework. There are age-appropriate guidelines for homework: ten minutes per grade, beginning with 1st grade. You could set at timer to see how long your child is (diligently) working. If he or she exceeds the time allowance on a regular basis, and is struggling to maintain his or her concentration, speak to the teacher. Find out which part of the assignment your child could skip, as it is difficult for her to concentrate for so long after a whole day of school.

Homework is meant to be a simple reinforcement of what is learned in school, not to teach new things or material the teacher did not have time to cover. Thus, it should be something an average student could do on his or her own. Remember that show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Most adults are not. If your child is stuck and keeps coming to you for help, again, speak to the teacher and let him or her know that your child is not properly prepared for the homework assignments.

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Pnina Baim is the author of the Young Adult novels, Choices, A Life Worth Living (featured on Dansdeals and Jew In The City) and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, Sing While You Work. The books are available at amazon.com. Pnina is available for speaking engagements and personal consulting. Contact her at pninabaim@gmail.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Times have certainly changed over the last 50 years. 10 minutes per grade level? I'm going to dig up Messrs. Hutchins and Gordon and have them charged with cruelty to animals for assigning us so much reading and writing. My HS-Buddy and I did our homework whilst bouncing his little brothers off the floor; they laughed and came back for more. Quiet rooms? Properly supplied? Parents not distracted by the mundane tasks of putting a roof over our heads?
    The 21st century —A planet populated by whiners, enabled by the media.

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