February 09, 2012

The Dreaded "H" Word

My son is 8 years old and the world’s best procrastinator. He must have inherited this trait from me. He is one of those bright kids with “great potential” that frustrates the hell out of teachers (and parents) because if he doesn’t want to sit down and do the work required of him, he simply does not.
I’ll begin by saying that I am not the biggest fan of the amount of homework that children get these days. I don’t remember ever getting homework in primary grades and I’m sure that most adults don’t end their work day by eating a snack and flipping open their laptop to do more work the minute they get in the door. Energetic and growing kids need an opportunity to unwind, get fresh air, run around and get their ya-ya’s out. What they don’t need is to sit down the minute they get home from school to do more of the what they did in class (where they sat and did work most of the day).
That being said, homework is a reality in our world. I have chosen at this point to suck it up and help the kids develop good homework habits because I don’t think the homework conundrum is going away anytime soon. I try hard not to roll my eyes at the amount of homework they are given. All I can do is empathize (“it must be frustrating when you just want to play”) and work with them at making it enjoyable. I try to give them some outside play on the way home and make sure a snack is at the ready when they get in. My kids are vultures the minute they hit the kitchen- something about “not having time to eat lunch at school” (another post altogether). We’ve even installed a breakfast bar so there is another homework station within quick reach of Mom’s help or another snack.
What frustrates me the most is the amount of time my son spends sitting in front of his homework doing anything but. He breaks and sharpens his pencil about 30 times, asks for more food or another drink, fidgets and scribbles, taking 60 minutes to complete something that could have been done in 15. I try not to stand over him, encouraging/pleading for him to get it done. I try to gently remind him of the consequences (handing in incomplete work to his teacher who he likes and respects) but I can’t seem to find that inner motivation button. Trust me when I say that the reward system doesn’t work in our house (tried and failed numerous times). Sticker charts and bribes don’t resonate at all with him and I personally disagree with this approach. I don’t want to raise kids that will only participate in life because there is some kind of personal reward in it.
Last night L revealed that he had an art project due the next day. He also had other homework to complete before dinner and his Cubs meeting. That meant that he was up this morning, attempting to complete some pretty complex drawings and colouring before I hustled the three kids out the door for the bus. He didn’t finish it. And L loves to draw. He is passionate about it (not as passionate as he is about hockey but close). I often have to tell him to put away his sketch pad and pencils to go to bed. This should be an easy A for him. Instead, he tells me that his teacher says that he will be lucky to get a C+ in Art this term. I believe that it related to him not having good work habits and not completing his assignments on time. It feels a bit cruel when I know that he can do well but I appreciate where his teacher is coming from. He needs to learn that there are things required of us in life that aren’t pleasant but simply must be done in a timely manner (making dinner and doing laundry come to mind).
So I am biting my tongue, letting the chips fall where they may. We’ll find out what the teacher had to say and see if he gets an “R” on his assignment (I think it stands for incomplete but it’s in French so what do I know?). I'm going to go back to my Alyson Schafer books and scour her website for tips on dealing with homework (she isn't a fan of it either). We’ll sit down with L this weekend and try again to come up with better homework strategies together. And I will continue to search for that elusive inner motivation button. If I find it, I'll let you know!
Image © Reiulf Grønnevik |

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