In Middle School, the amount of homework begins to increase and students often need help establishing a homework routine. This is especially true for students that do not necessarily excel in the classroom. In addition, many homework tips work great for “good” or motivated students, but do not fit for the underachieving student. I don't claim to be an expert, but I learned a few things in my years in education and I’ll share them with you. However, just because something works for one family, it may not work for you. Each student and each family situation is unique; the only method that works is one that works for your child!
What to consider.... What’s the Problem? When you learn your child is failing behind because of not doing their homework, don't get mad at the teachers for not letting you know sooner. It may be that your son or daughter has a problem with homework. The problem is not necessarily their teacher. don't get me wrong – and I tell teachers this all the time – teachers need to let parents know when kids are in trouble, but the first challenge is to accept your student has a homework problem. You see, as parents, we watch our kids grow up and see them stumble as they learn new behaviors: taking their first steps, putting their shoes on (but on the wrong feet), the first time they tried to ride a bike, etc. We know that falling down or failing was just part of the learning process. So, when homework starts to be late (or isn't done), we tell ourselves that our kid will eventually get the “hang of it.” We’re so used to them overcoming things and becoming independent, we assume it’s going to happen again. Often, students develop strategies to avoid homework by putting up a wall between home and school.
Homework Avoidance Strategies
You’ve probably heard many of these and felt the same way or said the same things:
The NO HOMEWORK Strategy: If you ask if they have homework and they say, "No". It’s what you want to hear. It is especially effective at 9:45 PM or on nights when they have something planned…
The I FORGOT MY STUFF Strategy: Sure, it was frustrating but as a parent, what are you going to do? Kids (and parents) forget stuff. Plus, they usually followed this one up with something about “It’s not due until Thursday” or “I have time before school…”
The IT’S NOT MY FAULT Strategy: All too often creativity really shows through with this strategy! Some included blaming the teacher (“she didn’t tell our class” or “erased the board too fast” or “he ran out of copies” or “ said we didn’t have to do it” -- a million of those); some include accidents of life (“my notebook got stolen” or “my friend borrowed mine and never gave it back”); and some are just smokescreens – the explanation would go on and on and on until a parent is so confused, they just give up.
The I’LL ASK MY TEACHER TOMORROW Strategy: This one works very well whenever parents start to struggle with the content of a homework assignment while helping their student. There you are, working on homework that you don't understand – and they offer up a great solution – they will ask their teacher for help! What parent wouldn’t go for that? It may sound like your student is sneaky or nasty or manipulative. Nothing could be further from the truth! It’s just that they may not really like school, don't like homework, and don't work hard on things they don't like. Does any of this sound familiar?
Homework Help Strategies
So, what you do? The list below highlights some of the things you can do that may help:
1. Make a commitment. Realize that the problem won’t go away on its own. Understand that you are in a bit of a battle with your child and that he/she is often trying to keep you in the dark. Kids that don't do well at school tend to live one day at a time. For example, they know that grades are coming out soon, but their goal is to get past doing homework today. That’s the ultimate goal in their life – not a grade given somewhere down the line! To help your child, you will need to make his or her homework a commitment in your life as a parent.
2. Get Connected with School. Find out what is going on at school from someone at school. Ask your son or daughter's teachers to help by keeping an eye on how things were going. You can call the homework hotline every single day. By doing so, you can hear what is going on in class and ask follow up questions to the “no homework” answers. Teacher websites are helpful, too. Finally, make a note in your calendar to e-mail your student’s teachers on a regular basis to ask how they are doing. (Wednesday's work really well so you can have an answer by Thursday night and tell your child what to bring home on Friday. It also has an impact on what you allow him/her to do that weekend…)
3. Check and sign the student planner daily. Tell your son or daughter you need to sign their notebook every day, not once a week as may be required by teachers. If the planner didn’t come home that night, they may lose a certain privilege for that night only. You can also tell them that there needs to be something written in the notebook for every class. If there isn't, treat it as if they didn’t even bring their assignment planner home.
4. Get Organized! Start with their backpack. You may find assignments that aren't done, but “lost” and too late to turn in… you may find notices of concerts that you learned about during dinner on the night of the concert… You can give them two pocket notebooks: a red one labeled “Assignments Due” and a green one labeled “Assignments Done.” By doing this, you have one place to look for work they need to DO and one place to look for work that is DONE. You can also make trips to school and clean their locker. Staying organized is one of many student’s biggest challenges.
5. Developing a Homework Plan. Establish a homework plan that works for your family. Try a Before 7, After 7 Homework Plan. Prior to 7:00, they can choose how, what, where, or when they want to do their homework. After 7:00, it is up to you. (Each day, you may have to look ahead to the next day and alter the plan slightly: “You have soccer tomorrow at 7, so unless you want to come straight home from your game and do homework, you better have it done by 6:30.”)
6. Specifying a set location for doing homework. What you need to do to make it work... Commitment: Once you commit yourself, your son or daughter will know you won't quit and simply go away. You may still battle and make trips to school to get worksheets, books, and assignments. They may still miss deadlines or not study for tests. But they will improve a lot. Keep reminding yourself that you are doing what your student needs.
Choices: Middle school kids are becoming independent and need to have choices. Allow your student to make choices regarding the how, what, where, and when they do their homework.
Consequences: The consequences used should immediate and clean. Try to allow for very little “gray” area. No assignment notebook? No playstation for the night. Forgot your Math book? Get in the car. You’re all caught up? Great! Sure you can sleep over at your friend's! In addition, “failure” today results in a consequence for ONE day. Each “tomorrow” is a new day and your son or daughter needs to know they can get “out of the doghouse” very quickly if they do what they ares supposed to do.
What about Grades? Grades may be overrated! don't get it wrong – grades are important. But, what’s really important is that you want them to learn and learn how to learn. You want them to be able to organize themself and become responsible and reliable. Getting homework done on time does all of those things. You will be proud of your son or daughter's report cards as long as you know they are trying – even if you know they could be doing better.
You are not Alone! I hope this information is helpful to you. I hope you’ll take the time to think through your child’s “problem” and that these ideas will help you come up with some things that will work for you and your child. After all, we’re all in this together! Your child needs YOU!
Credit offered to Tom Sullivan regarding his perspective of raising a middle school student.