It’s autumn: your back to school supplies have been purchased, the class schedule set, and days are getting shorter. For too many families, the longer nights are dedicated to fighting the Homework Wars.

Maybe this year can be different.

Keeping the Peace in the Homework Wars

Parents as well as students often feel somewhat at the mercy of schools, teachers and homework assignments. One thing you have on your side is knowing your child. You know if he or she can find the time and complete their assignments on their own, or if they could use some structure. You know your student’s preferences: she might spend hours diagramming geometry problems and leave writing a literary analysis of Macbeth till the last second, or vice versa. You know know if your child will find the time to complete her assignments on her own, or if she needs some structure. You know if he feels comfortable stopping when he gets stuck, or if he tends to get frustrated quickly. As with so many things, this knowledge is power.

We suggest that, as the school year begins, you take some time to think about how your child typically deals with homework. Identify one or two ways in which your student struggles, and one or two ways in which you might help him or her focus on their strengths and take steps to overcome challenges.

During the first week of school, set aside time to have a conversation with them about homework.

“We had a few challenges with homework last year. How do you think things will go this year?”

Wait for a response. You are encouraging your student to take the first step in taking control of the homework situation. S/he may have some excellent suggestions.

If your student needs some guidance, try balancing a suggestion with a success, and encourage her to identify her own best strategy.

“You seemed to have no problem last year with math (or short-term assignments or reading or…) but you had a few challenges with history. What if you always start with your history assignment so you get it out of the way first, or create a calendar for yourself to plan out the work so that you don’t get stuck at the last minute, or create a study group, or set up a regular meeting with the teacher to make sure you stay on track? Which of those ideas do you think would help?”

By providing choices, you provide a measure of control for your student. They cannot control what the assignment is or how much work they will be given, but they can control how they will respond.

This year really can be different.

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