After school, we labored over math homework at the kitchen table on the merry go round of debate whether or not I knew how to solve this second grade math problem.
Never mind that I used to teach elementary school, earned an almost perfect score on the computation section of the GRE, and at one point in life received a full scholarship to study graduate level statistics, I thought as I attempted to help my child with the math problem.
My child insisted I didn’t know what I was talking about. This was not the way the teacher demonstrated it.
My child attempted to independently solve it, but it didn’t work out. I could feel my child’s tension bubbling.
I suggested we move on to another problem since we couldn’t agree on a solution.
It was like my child fell in quicksand and was stuck in wanting to do THIS problem only. But listening to my suggestions was out of the question.
Frustration rapidly boiled.
I suggested we skip homework tonight.
Not an option. My child worried about getting in trouble at school for missing homework. The more I tried to help. The worse it got.
I gave my child space, and that failed too.
Slamming pencils. Ripping papers. Screaming insults at me.
This went on for an hour before my child calmed down.
Extreme meltdowns over homework were not anomaly for this child.
Does homework create unnecessary stress in your home?
Yes, I mean unnecessary stress because there is little research to support the effectiveness of homework in elementary school.
Does the stress you feel to get it all done, including helping your children with their homework, rub off on your children?
Would you rather your child be your sous chef instead of monitoring his progress as he completes homework at the kitchen table?
Is your child stuck indoors on a warm, beautiful day because you feel pressured to have her complete homework as soon as she gets home from school?
Not sure if homework is positive or negative for your particular kid. Click here to print out this checklist to help evaluate the effect of homework on your child’s life.
You realize there are a lot of negative costs to homework in your child’s life and not many positives. Right?
Yet, most schools require homework.
I have had only a few obstacles from the school when ensuring homework does not cause too much stress in my family’s life. It’s what I call the No Pressure Homework Policy.
The No Pressure Homework Policy is a plan which ensures homework does not rule our family’s life.
Learning, independence, and growth are important, but there are other more developmentally appropriate ways to foster those values without doing homework.
If homework is causing your family too much pressure, it is time think about developing a No Pressure Homework Policy for your family.
This is how it works in my family. Adjust it to suit you family’s needs to reduce the stress of homework.
The No Pressure Homework Policy
Don’t force your kids to do their homework.
If they don’t want to do it, they don’t do it.
Amazingly, this does not create an atmosphere that discourages effort and learning. My kids enjoy learning, but this lets them know that I am not going to trick them or fight with them to do their homework.
They do it because the are self motivated to complete their homework.
Free time comes before homework.
My children play outside, visit a grandparent, use the iPad, read, play video games, build and create indoors, play with our dogs, or read.
Homework is not the only way to help your child learn at home.
If I feel like another educational activity would be better suited than the teacher’s homework assignments, I talk with the teacher about this possibility. I have always had support from teachers with this proposal.
Change the IEP if your child has special needs.
One child’s IEP has no homework as an accommodation.
This child felt too much pressure from the teacher to complete homework yet doesn’t have the mental stamina after school to comply with classroom homework expectations. The special education team easily agreed to my request when I asked that no homework be written into the IEP.
Mood at home after school has greatly improved now that pressure from teacher has been eliminated.
Give your children educational freedom.
Learning isn’t limited to the skills and subjects taught at school. Freedom is given to children to explore topics of interest. Learning isn’t only associated with boring worksheets.
Passion and exploration fuel learning.
Mom and Dad are in charge at home.
I support the teachers during school hours. I expect the teachers to support what I feel is best for my children in my home. Making sure my children get enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food is supporting them in school.
My children say things like “My teacher says make sure you don’t only play at home and do your homework.” or “My teacher says we should do our homework as soon as we come home from school.”
I reply, “Your teachers make the rules at school, and I make the rules at home. Other things besides homework are important too.”
Chores and Cooking
There are alternatives to homework that teach a child independence and responsibility. Each school night one child assists me with cooking dinner for the family. All my children eagerly help with this responsibility.
Chores are not done as joyfully, but my children clean their own bedrooms, help with laundry, load the dishwasher, and clean bathrooms.
Don’t do your kid’s homework for them.
I help as needed. If a child struggles with accepting help or requires too much help, I decide how we can make the assignment fit their needs better or stop working on the homework. I write a note to the teacher about why we changed the homework.
Use these study tips to help your children to learn to study independently.
Don’t bribe them.
I don’t offer rewards at home for homework.
For one of my children, this creates too much anxiety.
I want to foster a spirit of joyful learning. When rewards are offered for learning, it puts more focus on material gain rather than the rewards of learning. Some families find rewards beneficial, and you do what works best for your children’s needs.
Set your priorities.
Family relationships always come before homework. After school if I have a chance to connect with my child doing a shared activity, I choose the bonding activity.
A healthy relationship with your child is the strongest foundation you can provide your child for school success.
Reducing the importance of homework is not the same as giving into a tantrum. It is recognizing that the practice of homework is not developmentally appropriate for your child at this time.
If your elementary school child is fighting over homework, your child is not manipulating you. Your child is sending you a message. Homework is not the right activity to help your child grow and learn.
We don’t expect elementary students to practice driving skills, so they can learn to drive as a teenagers. Children don’t need to practice doing homework, so they can keep up with homework in high school.
No more thrown pencils, ripped papers, and screaming over homework.
You have the power to choose what is best for your child. If you decide that homework is causing too much stress, create a No Pressure Homework Policy for your family.
Take back evenings for your family as a time for rest, recreation, and reconnection after a long day of work and school.