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Q: My kids are in fifth grade and are completely overwhelmed with their homework assignments. They are good students and we sit down as a family every night to do homework. Many nights they cry and get very upset because of the excessive amount of homework they are given. I have spoken to the teachers and they say it is out of their hands and that they have pressure from the top. What should I do? My girls are beginning to hate school and learning.
A: You have shown them real support by contacting the school and trying to gain information about what is being assigned. Here are some additional strategies you might try.
- Create a family schedule for the week that will incorporate all required activities for each day. Examine the time left each evening, beginning when the girls get home from school. Identify blocks of time that are available, rather than just one long block of study time. Your daughter will be able to approach the tasks with more energy at the beginning of each session.
- Use an agenda or planner. Have your daughters make a list of work that has to be done. Let the girls do those sections that are easiest for them at times when you are not available to help. Check off each task that is done for a sense of accomplishment.
- Have the girls note a starting time and an ending time for each of the tasks. By knowing realistically how long certain tasks take, they can allot the appropriate time for future assignments.
- Take a break after each task. Even a brief time to stand up and stretch before moving on to the next assignment feels good.
- Keep all interruptions to a minimum. By making the schedule up in advance for the week, your daughters can tell their friends when NOT to call, and you can try to allow a block of time devoted to family fun each night, in addition to just study time.
By keeping the time-task log for each girl, you can approach the teacher again with this information. The teacher can suggest additional strategies that will reduce time spent on work without affecting its quality.
As a concerned parent, your heart and head are working together to improve the situation. Realize that in trying to help your kids with an assignment, they first need to bring you up-to-speed on the task. Explaining the assignments and answering questions about the materials takes additional time, but your support and assistance is worth it. The key is to find a balance to conserve time and energy on everyone's part.
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Judith Lee Ladd is a former president of the American School Counselor Association, a national organization of K-12 and post-secondary school counselors.