Thursday, April 1, 2010

Homework, Yuck!

Bonus points for knowing the theater reference in the title of this post. And in yesterday's, too.

I once asked a colleague what it was like to have both of his children in the Gifted and Talented program at school, and he sighed and said plaintively, "I have sooo much homework!"

Personally, I think homework is unnecessary and pointless, but I'm swimming upstream here. I find it cruel and unusual that children, who need to move their bodies in order to mature and develop, are forced to sit all day long, and then forced to sit for a couple of more hours at night, too. And in the end, what does it accomplish? I'm not sure I'm a better person for having done homework in grammar school, or high school either, for that matter. No matter how much algebra I managed to muddle through outside of class, it never stuck anyway.

Every parent who comes through my door has problems getting their children to focus on schoolwork at home. Plus, if you work yourself, the last thing you want to do is sit down and do a couple of hours of math and geography with a kid who doesn't want to be there. But it must be done.

Try to precede homework with some time outdoors, if possible. The best time to do it, of course, is when the child is fresh and alert. So putting it off until after dinner doesn't help, especially if there's a lot of it. Give the child a protein rich snack first. Make sure she is adequately hydrated. Have her drink some water before you start.

Go through your child's assignments and figure out together how long it will take to get it all done. Have the child review each assignment and estimate how long each one will require. Break the work up into discrete segments. Tell the child, we will work for five minutes, then get up and have quick break. Give her a brief choice of break activities. Some favorites include singing "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes" with accompanying movements {making sure to invert the head when touching toes, which is alerting} getting on the floor and wrestling {let the child pin you, but make her work hard for it!} jumping jacks, hopping across the room, or doing somersaults over the arm of the couch.

If your child can function better by doing a bit of each task and moving between them instead of plowing all the way through one before tackling the next, allow him to choose that option. This is especially wise if the child gets stuck and can't master something. Leave it, let it percolate, and come back to it in a bit.

Kids need to move, so a good option for moving while sitting still is either a therapy ball or a Disc-O-Sit.

If you have an office chair that spins, and your child enjoys it, spin him. Ten times ought to do the trick.

Make sure that the height of the table is good for writing. Your child's feet should touch the floor, and the table should be low enough so that his arms are not reaching up to write.

I always offer the child a lollypop or a piece of gum when it's time to work on handwriting or fine motor skills. Grown ups use gum and candy to stay alert, so why shouldn't children? This is especially true if your child is a habitual chewer and destroys pencils and shirt collars. Sucking on lollypops has the additional advantage of pulling the muscles of the eyes inward, which makes reading and all close work easier.

As I have stated earlier, children who are too young to work on their own need a grown up nearby.

I would welcome more tips from readers: any other strategies you have found useful?

1 comment:

Catherine V said...

Great suggestions! I think chewing gum should be allowed in school., it helps so much. I know many teachers do not agree.. my son's Kindergarten teacher uses it with him as a focusing tool for him. They are allowed to chew gun during the Mastery Tests, why not the rest of the time?
I also think starting homework with a positive attitude works wonders, at least for me, when I can get there!