Crying, screaming, gnashing of teeth is what you will hear at my house on most week nights. Torture you ask? Not exactly, it’s homework. More specifically it’s my fifth grader doing everything he can to NOT do his homework. It’s a constant struggle to keep him on task so he can do his homework before bedtime.
To be fair, he goes to a very tough school and they give a LOT of homework. My fifteen year old daughter dealt with the same thing but now she is self sufficient. We never have to ask about her homework…she just does it. But it’s not the case with the fifth grader. So, I have been looking for ways to tame the homework monster and make life at my house a little more calm during the week. Here are some ideas I’ve had and actually implemented. They seem to help (depending on the moon phase).
1. Dedicated Space
My son was doing homework at the kitchen table. This was a disaster. His little brother was distracting him from the living room. We were distracting him while cooking dinner. The ceiling fan was distracting him…just because. So I cleaned out a desk in my home office. I told him it was his personal space and that was where he was to do homework. The location is just off of our kitchen so we are still close enough to help with a problem but he is segregated enough so he can focus on his homework more. Our next phase is to place a desk underneath his loft bed.
2. Remove Distractions
This goes along with #1. It’s important to remove anything that causes him to lose focus on what he’s doing. This includes the pencils he uses for homework. If I hear that clicking sound of the mechanical pencil again I think I’ll poke my ears out. We gave him a cup full of (sharpened) #2 pencils. He hates it but it’s less for him to get distracted by. Also it removes the distraction of trying to find a pencil and sharpener. This way he has everything he needs to do his homework.
3. Break It Up
We have found that breaking his homework up by subject makes it a bit easier for him to stay on task. For instance, we make him do all of his math and then he can take a little break (like 5 minutes). He loves marking off things he’s done so we print out a list of his homework (thanks to his teacher) and he can mark items off as he does them. I know that I work better when I have smaller goals as opposed to a huge list of tasks.
4. Work Together
This one is a little tough. If he has a test to study for we will work with him by calling out flash cards to him. This breaks up the monotony by actually being engaged with someone and not just staring at a book. At this age, it’s important that we check over his work and make sure he understands his assignments. My wife is much more understanding when it comes to helping him. I seem to have a more hard line attitude (which isn’t always right). I think this may be a dad vs mom mentality and I hope that we balance each other out.
5. Call It Quits
Let’s face it, at a certain point a fifth graders brain is just not going to be able to focus. When homework has gone on too long it becomes counterproductive to keep at it. We have a hard bedtime set and unless there are crazy circumstances (and there are sometimes) we stick to it. We have tried to let him stay up and do homework and it rarely works out. He is so tired that he gets nothing done. So we send him to bed and let him finish in the morning before school.
So that’s five ways that we try to keep homework from destroying our family (a little melodramatic there). Please leave a comment below with how you do it. Seriously, I need more ideas…help me out. 🙂