Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Homework is hell. Well, strictly speaking, it can be anything from easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to incredibly complex, from mind-numbingly dull to absolutely fascinating by way of entertaining, whimsical, creative or chock-full of trivia. It's actually the doing of homework that is hell! Even more so, if you have a daydreamer of a daughter who would happily find any excuse rather than even start it.
That's our take on the situation. We suspect, though, from the many despairing conversations we have had with other parents that we are very much not alone in this. We decided to write this blog, negative though it may seem, so that you can see if any of our experience chimes with yours. If so, you may well find that some of our solutions could work for you, too.
So what were the problems? The first was just starting the homework, which had a number of elements. Even the most basic thing, such as knowing what she had to do, could be problematic as chances are our daughter would have forgotten to take her homework sheet(s) out of her drawer at school and put it in her school bag to bring home. Then, it was the inevitable delay and procrastination. We wanted her to get the small amount of homework done as quickly as possible, so we could enjoy the rest of the evening together. In practice, our daughter would wander off after coming home from school, with never a thought to starting her homework.
When we eventually did manage to corral her, she would never have the right equipment. We're not talking anything unusual: pencil, rubber (eraser), sharpener and ruler as standard, with the occasional pen or highlighter. Despite having what seems like hundreds of pencil cases scattered randomly around the house, she could never find them (quickly) and, when she did she did, there never seemed to be one that had all four items. Even if she did find a pencil, what do you reckon the odds are that it would be sharp enough to write with? You wouldn't be wrong if you estimated the chances as practically non-existent.
The next problem area was time management. As soon as she started her homework, she would spend huge amounts of time and go into incredible detail on the first things she had to do. After an hour, we would say something along the lines of “Haven’t you finished yet? Your homework was only supposed to last 20 minutes!” to find she hadn’t got past the first question of four.
We needed to address things like how long she was taking to do homework. The problem was rarely that she was stuck, although this did occur occasionally. Far more likely, she was daydreaming, distracted or going into far too much detail on trivial stuff. So we had to consider her work environment, time planning and management and the thorny question of parental involvement.
Completing the homework didn't mean the problems were at an end. Our shiny smiles at tasks well done were soon tarnished when we would find the homework sheet on the dining room table the following morning, after she had left for school. Even if it had made it as far as the school bag, which was taken into school, as likely as not we would find it still in the school bag that evening, not handed it. It wasn't unknown for homework to be handed in late, or get lost altogether. This problem was especially bad if a piece of homework was only half-done and needed to be finished on subsequent days.
So much for the problems. What were our solutions? We used QWERTY® to plan what we had to do, which included devising a simple homework routine that included equipment, materials and timing with set tasks/items to use each time and using the Memory Palace technique to remember them all. We came up with one strategy to get her to start her homework in a timely fashion (Flame, Fuse, Fire!) and one to help her remember to bring it home in the first place (the mnemonic acronym CHUM, which we discuss in the FFF blog, too, and in more detail in Explode Into Action).
We go into the details of the solutions and strategies in Homework Blues Solutions. A lot of it is simple common sense, but as a parent you have to play the part of leader. You have to set the goals and you have to explain to your child what they are. You have to say why, as a family, you are doing this: to have a more peaceful life. An effective homework routine can mean that your child gets into less trouble, s/he will (probably) have more time to play and last, but by no means least, your child will have a sense of achievement that they can do their work, and do it efficiently and well.
We spent a lot of time and effort putting in place memory cues and habits to get our daughter to do her homework regularly and efficiently. Was it perfect? No. Did it improve the situation? The answer to that is a resounding Yes! Was it worth it? Very definitely. There is no doubt that you have to check every day that the routine is followed, at least to begin with. This is hard at the start, but gets easier as the child gets into their routine.
Have you had similar problems? If so, we hope you will find that our solutions (or your own personalised variation) could help you and your child(ren), too. We certainly find that they have streamlined the homework process for us and made for a much happier home, with less stress and much reduced blood pressure.