Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 43, Tuesday, March 30, 2004




homework situations!

STUDY time…the mention of the word brings about a remarkable transformation. Parent and child turn bitter enemies. Hostility hums in the air, as well as a sense of imprisonment. The student feels harassed, overwhelmed by the burden of studies. The mother feels stressed out by the responsibility of having to aid her child's learning. The fact that we leave in challenging times, when cut-throat competition is the name of the game, doesn't help matters. Let's face it…homework has never made anyone happy. So what is a parent to do?

Homework checklist for parents
- Provide a quiet, well-lit space, away from distractions and with all the right study materials -- paper, pens and pencils, books, a dictionary, a desk, etc.
- Try to find a separate space for each of your children, or schedule a specific 'quiet time' for homework in designated spaces.
- Create a regular schedule, allowing for adequate study and free time.
- Limit TV time, and do not allow it during homework.
- Each day your children should preview the assignments that they have to do and get the tough tasks out of the way first. They should write down the order in which they will do assignments.
- When possible, be available to answer questions. Try doing a problem or two together, then watch as the child tries the next one.
- Avoid simply giving an answer. Instead, ask questions that let your child see the problem in smaller, sequential steps.
- Provide your kids with a notebook for writing down assignments. When they're finished, compare the homework and the notebook to make sure everything is done.
- Review completed and graded assignments. Discuss errors to be sure your child understands the material.
- Share any concerns with your children's teachers about the homework assigned. Be sure to let them know if your children are having difficulty or are unable to do most of it by themselves.

All these points make great theories, which, if actually followed, would make for superb grades and satisfied parents, but reality is never that simple. Read on…

If students had their way…
Students should not spend more than 90 minutes per night. The time should be budgeted in the following manner:
-15 minutes looking for assignment
-11 minutes calling a friend for the assignment
-23 minutes explaining to parents why the teacher is mean and just does not like children
-8 minutes in the bathroom
-10 minutes getting a snack
-7 minutes checking the TV Guide
-6 minutes telling parents that the teacher never explained the homework
-10 minutes sitting at the kitchen table waiting for Mom to do the assignment.

Well, these are of course tips downloaded from various websites, one giving you genuine ideas to tackle homework situations (as we are referring it) and the other one is a slice out of real life. Easy way outs are our all-time favourites. No matter how desperate the situation turns out to be, it's tips in the latter scenario that always bail the kid out.

"Mummy, I'll be with you in two and half minutes time," it's the usual bargain you hear your seven-year-olds or 15-year-olds scream out while mummy on the other hand has pressed the panic button and is chewing on her manicured nails.

As the story begins this 30 seconds plea stretches to minutes and hours unless that show of Pokémon or Spiderman is over. With teenagers who are more independent and understand what the importance of homework is, and know well the outcome of the mother's wrath, this dilly-dally takes new heights. Discussing home assignments with friends over the phone, reading Stephen King from inside the Chemistry lab copy, listening to indi pop while fighting with a trigonometry problem and so many more but with seven-year-olds it's a totally different ball game.

These no-longer-toddlers (yet ever the babies of the house), have no understanding of why you must sit to do homework at 4p.m. when school was just over. The cricket match with the boy next door or riding bikes are the things of the moment, not sums correction or learning spellings or reading for upcoming science review work.

Thus begins the war. Kids this age are too small to be scolded for homework or else they would develop a fear for the work and would totally reject it and at the same time big enough to do regular homework as schools and their classes demand. Somehow, they seem to know it. "Mommy, I need to go to the washroom…" How many times have you heard that during a single homework session? Their beguiling smiles speak of innocence, and even though you're not fooled by it, what can you do but give in?

It's no use turning to their fathers either. Either he is too busy to be bothered, or he is easily manipulated by the children's clever negotiating skills. "Ahha, just ten more minutes of television won't hurt," they invariably end up saying.

“Leave me alone! I can do it myself!"
As your child has matured over the years, how many times have you heard this declaration of independence? Sometimes, it's music to your ears. Other times, it's an exasperating example of inexperience coupled with bravado. Why don't we hear this when it comes to homework?

When your child complains about homework, think about that idea of independence. Remember that homework is a contract between teachers and children--parents aren't part of the deal. Think of yourself as a coach, standing on the sidelines. Let your player take responsibility and carry the ball. Be available for support, but let your child complete the task at hand from start to finish. The hard work will be theirs alone -- but so will the satisfaction of achievement.

Yes, homework is sometimes dull, or too easy, or too difficult. That doesn't mean that it shouldn't be taken seriously. Homework often means drill and reinforcement, which is often time-consuming. More important than length, however, is the quality of time and attention homework gets. Fifty minutes flopped on the bed with the stereo blasting doesn't count.

In the end no matter what the experts say about leaving your kid to tackle their own 'situation' mothers should always be in charge and never let go too much, so that whatever excuse the child comes up with you have a counter reply ready. At least school years are really important and no conscious mother should lax or allow their kids to lax during these years.

By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Zahidul I Khan, MODEL : Urmi, Nafisa, Numaya and Salman



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