Today’s guest blogger, Angela Norton Tyler, is a teacher and parent from Sacramento, California. With a special focus on helping parents help their children become better students, Angela has put her energies into teaching parents how to improve the homework and reading skills of their children. In 2005, Angela published Tutor Your Child to Reading Success, and now conducts seminars about reading and homework for parents and teachers all over the west coast of the United States. She also runs a website family-homework-answers.com, “devoted to helping parents and their children deal with homework.”
Homework or Fearwork?
by Angela Norton Tyler
Over the years, numerous studies have proven that homework is largely a waste of time, and for younger children, too much homework can actually be harmful. It isn’t until high school that homework positively supports learning or benefits academic achievement. Not that parents need to read a bunch of boring studies. Common sense tells us that anything that stresses out our children; causes fights, tears and commotion; destroys family time; interrupts vacations; prevents participation in extracurricular activities; and, makes kids scream, “I HATE school!” can’t be good.
Yet we still make our children do homework. Finish every last math problem! Answer every last question! Read every single page! Settle down! Focus! We deal with ruined evenings, spend untold hours badgering our children, miss our own TV shows… If it were anything else, we’d say, “No more!” tell the kids to go play, and turn on Law and Order. But, for some reason, we don’t do it with homework.
Why? What power does homework have over parents?
I have thought long and hard about this. I have talked to hundreds of parents, quizzed dozens of teachers, read the blogs, studied the books, participated in the forums, reflected on my personal experience, and here’s what I’ve finally decided:
Parents are a bunch of scaredy cats.
Yes, I believe that fear is the overwhelming reason why we force our children to do something night after night, year after year that we know in our hearts and heads is not good for them.
What, exactly, are we afraid of?
Parents are afraid that..
– Our kids won’t get into a good school. This includes worrying about college when they are in kindergarten.
– We’ll look bad to our friends who have no problem getting their kids to do their homework (don’t you believe it!)
– The teacher will think we’re Slacker Parents that don’t care about our children’s education.
– Our children will be punished for not doing their homework. (Unfortunately, this is a reality for many children. I advise parents to let the teacher know that the decision not to do homework was theirs and not the student’s.)
– We’re allowing our kids to be lazy, and if we don’t force them to do every bit of homework, they won’t be prepared for the “Real World.” Doing homework does not prepare you for life. If it did, more people would be better prepared.
Every family is different, every child is unique, every school year has its own challenges. There is not one perfect homework answer for everyone. The point is that none of us should operate from a place of fear. These are our children, we know them better than anyone, and we must do what is best for them in both the short- and long-term. Believe it or not, our children will be grown and gone in a flash. Is this how we want to spend our time with them?
The Three ‘Musts’
Parents must first decide what is really, truly important. Is it all about grades or is it also a priority to see our kids reading for pleasure? Second, we must ask ourselves how we’d like our children to remember their childhoods. Do we want them to have a million memories of homework battles with their parents- and not much else? Finally, we must cut out anything that prevents us from doing what we know is right.
Once we become pro-active, make a few decisions and take action, the fear will dissipate. Then, we can worry about something else!