When it’s time for homework in Rebecca Sasak’s house, she first composes a study area where her two children, ages 11 and 8, will work into a space as serene as possible.
“I might light a candle and adjust the lighting,” said Sasak, a licensed acupuncturist with a master of science in traditional oriental medicine and owner of Thrive Acupuncture with offices in Miller Beach and Valparaiso. “I try to create a cozy and calm environment with as little distractions as possible.”
There was a time when only teenagers seemed to be loaded down with homework, but now even fist and second graders may have a project or worksheets to do. And that perception is a fact according to a study from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan which found that time spent on home study by 6- to 8-year-old children more than doubled between 1981 and 1997. In 1981, students ages 6 to 8 spent about 52 minutes a week doing homework. By 1997, it was 128 minutes. With such competing demands as sports, scouts, dance and whatever else is on a kid’s agenda plus the basic fact that homework isn’t fun—getting homework done without fuss, tears or, in more extreme cases, tantrums often seems an impossible task.
“Timing is important,“ said Sasak whose children attend Discovery Charter School in Chesterton. “It’s got to before they’re too tired. Otherwise, they’re going to be upset, and it’s more difficult.”
Donna Simon, who lives in Miller Beach, often helps her three grandsons—Ben, a fourth grader and second grade twins, Nicholas and Daniel, with their homework. “Kids not only have more homework, they have a lot more going on now too as well as more distractions. They’ve had a long day by the time they sit down to do their homework. They’ve been at school all day and often have had activities afterwards. They need to eat so they’re not hungry, but you don’t want to wait too late in the evening or they’ll be too tired.”
Simon establishes some rules—the television is never on when it’s homework time. She also tries to make a game of the work they have to do.
“I worked on spelling with the twins earlier tonight,” she said during an interview. “I had them each say a letter when they were practicing spelling their words. They had a good time doing it.”
Despite having worked in the Gary Public Schools for 35 years as both an English, speech and drama teacher at schools like Kenney-King and King Academy and also as a school librarian. Simon still sometimes has to figure out what the assignments are all about.
“They had charts with pictographs and were supposed to show different numbers like 35,” she said noting that parents should review the assignments first so they understand it and can better explain it. “A smiley face equaled ten. Once I figured that out, we had fun doing it.”
Other important considerations include letting the child be part of the process within reasonable limits. If they’d rather play first, that’s okay unless they’re too tired after to sit and do their work.
Also, it is good to help them understand why they have to do more work even if they’re not in school. Explain to them why homework is important such as it helps reinforce what was taught in school, it helps us learn more about a subject, it helps us learn to work more on our own which is important as we move up to higher grades. This won’t make them like homework more, but at least it helps kids understand why they’re doing.
Avoid telling your children that homework is just busy work, if a parent denigrates it, the child will too. For older students, rewards and consequences can also be effective.
There’s also a more drastic solution if doing homework becomes too much of an ongoing struggle. Move to France where French President Francois Hollande opines that homework penalizes children with difficult home situations and offered a plan that eliminates homework for elementary and junior high students.
But before packing your bags, consider this—French students typically are in school for eight hours a day. Though there is no nationwide standard in the U.S., the average school day here is about 6.7 hours. Once your child hears that, he or she may decide that homework isn’t so bad after all.