The Homework Headache

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

A funny thing happened when my husband and I attended parent/teacher conference this year. Our son Ian's teacher asked how I liked third grade so far.

"It's driving me crazy - there's so much homework," I complained. Once I realized my inner voice had indeed escaped, I added a smile to lighten the mood.

Third grade really is OK. Ian likes his teacher and we like that he is being challenged. There are days though when we ask ourselves whether we had this much homework way back when we were in third grade? We've long given up discussing the matter because well, we - err, Ian - has work to do: reading, math, science and social studies.

My mom friends with older children tell me homework gets worse in fourth grade.

Oh joy!

Seriously, the demands and expectations are higher for our children and there is more homework. Parent and pediatric behavioral health experts say we can clear the air of conflict and complete assignments by first identifying our children's "homework style."

"Don't think the attitude toward homework is your fault. It's not necessarily you. Your child is a unique individual," said Dr. Daniel Coury who practices pediatric developmental and behavioral health medicine at Nationwide Children's Hospital. The father of four says two of his children were self starters but the other two had to be closely monitored.

There are simple strategies to employ, including designating the time and place for homework. Is your child one who needs a break from the school day before homework or is it better to get right on task with homework after school? Designate a place to do the work - the kitchen table is fine - which allows you to be at least within earshot to supervise.

"Supervision lets the parent know what the child is doing and sends the message to the child that mom and/or dad value their education," said Coury.

One critical strategy parents can use with children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is to break homework into chunks. Start with one section or chunk of the work then go on to another section.

Coury specializes in treating children with ADHD and said that breaking up homework can help tremendously: "We have 30 minutes until dinner, so which part of the assignment can we do now? Then we'll finish the other part after dinner."

Bottom line, friends: This is our new reality. Take advantage of any tools provided by your child's teacher and do your part. Don't forget to check your child's backpack - daily. If it feels like a second job, it is.

The reward when it comes to homework and our children isn't a salary, but the priceless message that we value their education, and of course, them.