Friday, March 27, 2015

A Solution for Homework Hassles

File this one under "Why didn't I think of this a long time ago?!"

When they hit those middle childhood years, when homework becomes the real deal, ALL of my boys have struggled for a while.  To sit and do MORE school after making through a whole day has been torture.  Many days, there have been tears, frustration, and a whole lot of time spent looking at a paper (or anything else that catches their attention) and not getting anything done.  Anyone else been there?

Poor Joseph has been in this stage for most of this school year.  What should take minutes to complete has taken hours most days, which is no fun for anyone.

 I've known for a long time how critical physical activity is for my boys' ability to think, and that they don't get enough of it during the day during their elementary years.  (See here and here for more on that subject.) I had tried having Joseph go play right when he got home each day with SOME success. However, there were a million other things he would rather be doing at home than homework, and I found that I was having to sit with him and continually redirect him in order to get the work done.  This was a bad deal for two reasons: First, I don't really have time for that, and second, it was killing his confidence in his own abilities.  We needed to find a way to help him own the homework situation.

Well, yesterday I had a beautiful idea.  Kate and I drove to a park near Joseph's school, parked there, and then went for a walk to pick him up after school.  I explained that we were going to go do homework at the park.  Starting out with the walk to the park and 5 minutes of play time (I used the timer on my phone) got his brain primed and ready to go.  I explained that for each page of homework he got done, he'd get another period of playtime.  He could take as much time as he wanted to get the page done.  I told him how much time he would have to play before returning for the next page.

It turns out he can do a 4 page reading packet in a combined total of 10 minutes.  Success!  Unfortunately, we had to go to a dentist appointment before we got to the math packet he had successfully avoided all week (thus the picture above at the kitchen table later last night), but he is totally excited to go back today.  What kid wants to do homework on Friday?! 

An added bonus was an afternoon spent in the beautiful sunshine and some happy time for little sis.

I know not all of you have the weather to make this feasible for much of the school year or have other places you need to be after school.  Here are the elements that made this strategy successful that you can adapt to your personal circumstances:

1.)  A change of venue!  By changing location, we ditched all of the negative memories associated with homework around the kitchen table.  It also eliminated all of his favorite distractions.  Since I was also in a different location, I was not getting sucked into other tasks that needed to be done around the house and was able to focus on the kiddos and spending time with them.

2.)  Motivation!  He had something fun to look forward to.  By keeping the work periods reasonably short, it made the task seem much more do-able.  He wasn't staring at an entire packet feeling like he was going to be at the table forever. 

3.) Physical activity! I really can't stress this one enough.  Kids need to move in order to think- especially boys.  Demanding school schedules and the amount of time many spend on tv and video games takes away a lot of what has traditionally been active time for kids.  Most simply cannot concentrate without it. 

We're excited to continue this tradition!  45 minutes at the park yesterday saved us HOURS of struggle at home, and everyone was happy. 

Happy homeworking!

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