Your Homework is Killing Me

I never understood parents who complained about having to help their kids do homework. Didn’t the assignment belong to the kids, after all? Wasn’t it unfair and unethical for the parent to be involved?

Ah, I had much to learn. Now I know that, no matter how hard I resist it, somehow the kids’ homework is mine. While most assignments can be done at the kitchen table with a textbook and a pencil, there are plenty more that require my involvement. Consider these assignments:

1. Collect data for five consecutive days on the moon’s phase. Describe your observation and whether the sky is overcast, clear, etc.

This sounds like such a cakewalk, until you startle at 10 p.m. upon realizing that nobody noticed the moon that night. Sure, your kid should have remembered it, but it was the last thing on your minds as you rode home after ball practice. What do you do now? Wake the kid up to observe the moon? Spoil the consecutive day streak by missing an observation? Peer out a window, record conditions and brief the kid in the morning?

Our ancestors wouldn’t have gone a day without observing the moon. Why is it so difficult now? And how did such an easy and painless assignment become an ethical dilemma involving the Weather Channel’s five-day forecast?

2. Note the health inspection scores for three food establishments. What do these scores mean? How do they affect our daily life?

A simple enough assignment that wasn’t mentioned by my kid until the night before it was due, and despite having had plenty of notice from the teacher. This required a frantic trip to the food court at the Galleria (where else to find three scores right away?) and the added expense of a Venti Decaf Mocha to calm my nerves.

3. Create a poster depicting…

I used to think Walgreens was open 24 hours for pharmacy customers, but now I know the schedule is for poor schmucks like me who have to buy the last dog-eared piece of white poster board and get it to the car in the rain. And yes, I try to keep a supply at home, but it’s gone by the time the poster assignment rolls around again.

Some parents have found just the right structure and schedule to ensure that homework is submitted on time and free of smears, eraser crumbs, and drama. Apparently this is one lesson I just haven’t learned yet.

  • Julie Anna Johnson

    As a teacher and as a tutor, I have a few recommendations. Most schools now use an agenda or calendar, where students record assignments to be completed each day. What you’ll find is that most teachers assign big projects a few weeks prior to their due date. I would set aside one evening each week, where I sit down with my child and look at all of the upcoming projects that have been assigned. Then break the assignment down into parts. Pencil in a date for each “part” of the assignment to be completed into the child’s agenda as if it were an assignment for that day just like any other homework assignment.

    If it is a science ecosystem project with drawings and expository paragraphs and worksheets, give each component a due date. For example, expository paragraph should be done by Monday. Drawing of water cycle should be completed by Thursday. Even though the entire project isn’t due for perhaps three weeks, your child has broken it down into manageable portions each with it’s own “due” date. This teaches your child planning,discipline, and goal setting, and you, as a parent, aren’t in a panicked rush the night before trying to complete everything because each portion should have been completed during the weeks prior.

    It is a strategy that takes practice and patience, but it is one that I find works with bigger projects.

  • Tina

    Julie Anna,
    This makes so much sense. Maybe it’s having a designated night for homework plannning that I’m missing. I know moms who are all over their kids’ agendas, but I seem to have all I can do to keep my own appointments. Having a weekly time reserved for breaking down and schedulng assingments would help.

    Thanks for your comments. I think we moms are the ones who need the tutor sometimes!