Homework at My House

1st grade homework project

I might not be a fan of busywork-as-homework. I might even encourage parents to think long and hard about why, exactly, they want to to “make” their sons do their homework. But that doesn’t mean that I encourage my kids to ignore homework or to disrespect teachers.

After reading my original blog post, How To Get Boys to Do Homework, Part 1, a reader asked:

Are you teaching your sons to ignore/disrespect authority figures?

The short answer is no.

This is what homework looks like at my house:

The boys come home after school. They settle into comfy chairs (after rummaging through the cupboards) and plug into their electrical devices. I let them. After spending their whole day in school, following the demands of an exterior schedule, I give them time to unwind. To do what they want to do.

After awhile, I ask about homework. Boy #2 usually doesn’t have any; he typically gets all of his assignments done at school. Boy #3 may or may not have homework — a math worksheet, a science packet, or part of a larger project that needs to be completed. He is also required to read and practice math facts each month, and receives a grade based on how many math minutes and reading minutes he’s completed at month’s end. Boy #4, a 1st grader, inevitably has to read a book. He might also have a math worksheet to complete.

Boy #1, my high school freshman, is completely responsible for his own work, and that amount of work he has varies on a daily basis.

I do not push or force Boy #3 to do his reading and math minutes. As I discussed in Homework, Part 1, he knows that his grade reflects his effort. He knows what he has to do if he wants to earn an A. And often, he puts off his reading and math minutes ’til the end of the month. He has done a whole “month’s worth” of reading in just three days.

If he has homework, or a looming project, I will remind him of his work. I may set aside some time to work with him. For instance, when he did a project about tourist destination in our state, I scheduled time for a family field trip to the destination. I helped him figure out Power Point; he’d decided to do a Power Point presentation, so we figured it out together. I reviewed his work when he asked me to, and I offered him opportunities to practice his presentation. (Each student was required to present their work to the class as well.) But when he declined my offer, I respected his decision. To practice or not practice — that is his choice. He will get the resulting grade. And if it’s not as good as he’d like, perhaps he’ll make a different choice the next time around.

Boy #4 and I read together after supper. Sometimes, he asks if he can read the book to himself, instead of aloud. I say yes. I know from experience that he always stops and asks me words he can’t read anyway. (“Mom, what is e-x-c-i-t-e-d?“) We also talk about his book; I can tell from his answers (and his questions) if he’s read and understood the material.

Boy #1 handles his homework on his own. He manages his time. He decides how hard (or not) to work on a particular assignment. I provide support as requested. I’ve proofread papers and projects and offered feedback — but only when requested. I’ve discussed ideas and books with him. (Right now, we’re both reading Cannery Row.)

That’s it. I don’t get into homework battles with my sons, because it’s their work. They — not me — bear the consequences of the choices they make. And in the end, if one of my sons decides to settle for a lower grade on a particular project or assignment because he doesn’t want to put in the additional work for a higher grade, I don’t push or prod or argue. His choice. His grades. I care more about sons’ overall development than I do about any one particular grade.

How about you? What does school work or homework look like at your house?

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2 Responses

  1. This is a new (and red hot) topic at our house this year, as we have our first-ever public school child in 10 years. My 14-year-old son, a freshman, chose to go to school, and thus, by our book, chose to play the school game, homework included. After much reflection and experimentation, we have returned to leaving it up to him. Badgering and harping about an upcoming test or homework was sapping my strength, creating marital and household conflict, and reducing our relationship to this child to perpetual arguments. He means more to me than that. Allowing him to take responsibility for his education is just as important as the grades, where his future is concerned. There is one caveat, however…and I think I will create a blog post from this topic on my own blog and quit filling up your comment box. Great topic and article, Jennifer!

    1. So glad you liked the post — and glad to hear from you and other homeschoolers that you found the post useful and relevant. Sometimes I think I’m the only one who’s trying to navigate the school system. You helped me remember that there are lots of us.

      Your post on the topic is excellent too. Anyone with a teen (esp. a teen boy) who is resisting homework would do well to check it out: http://www.ahomeschoolstory.com/2013/04/homework-and-teens.html

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