Homework, the comedies and tragedies revolving around it
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2019 - 12:00am

Many classroom comedies and tragedies revolve around homework. Children learn to lie about homework, copy it from friends, “lose” it or “forget” it at home. Home assignments are necessary to provide children drills for various lessons. The cooperation of the whole family is sometimes needed for some special projects like interviewing grandparents or discussing family hobbies or businesses.

Grade school homework, a personal responsibility

What is the main value of homework? It provides the child the experience to work on his own. It allows him the freedom to organize the time, the tools and duration of his work. Thus, a parent’s reminder, nagging and constant urging is likely to deprive the child the principal benefits of homework.

Parents must avoid an over active role

Many parents are anxious to help their child with is assignments. Many more hire tutors who practically do the child’s homework. These are the dangers of this kind of help. First, it may convey to the child, “On your own, you are helpless.”

The best help parents can give is indirect, that is, to condition his work environment: a fixed room (for example, the library) in the house where he has a good working table with good lighting and ventilation. This must be away from telephones, television, component set, and even distracting house decors. Good study habits can only be acquired when the child studies at a fixed time at the fixed place of study everyday until it becomes second nature to him.

Self-help tools range from dictionaries, thesaurus, encyclopedias, books of poetry, quotes, etc. Interruptions by errands, conversations or criticisms are taboo. Avoid comments on behavior (like “Stop chewing your pencil… scratching… rocking the chair.”), which interfere with mental work.

Helpful ways to deal with homework

The following anecdotes describe helpful ways of dealing with homework: A formal accounting. A child who fails to bring his assignment must write a formal note stating what was not done and when it will be in. No “why” questions are asked. Take for granted he has reason. Thus, he will not be forced to make up excuses or lies. When the homework is made up, the letter is returned to the child. Evidence of his diligence or deficiency is recorded by the child himself.

Appeal to pride. A letter from the teacher complained that Jimmy, age 12, was behind his studies. His father’s first reaction was to give him a verbal thrashing. “No movies. No TV. No more visits of friends. We have never had illiterates in the family and you are not going to be the first.” The increased pressure only heightened Jimmy’s resistance. He became an expert in evasion and concealment. This time, father avoided the threats. Instead, he appealed to his pride. “Son, we do expect scholarship from you. The world needs capable people. There are still so many problems that need solutions.” Jimmy was surprised at his father’s words and tone of voice. He said, “I promise to take my work more seriously.”

High school emotional support

 Teenagers are very touchy. Under stress they require emotional support. Erwin, age 14, was reading a scientific journal in preparation for a school report. “This is confusing. I can’t make head or tail out of it. How does the teacher expect me to write a report when I can’t understand this?” Father responded, “I see you have become aware how difficult it is to grasp scientific writing. It’s often written unclearly.” Erwin agrees: “That’s right. The scientist should learn how to present facts straight.”

Erwin reread the article and then wrote his report. The helping ingredient was his father’s emotional support. He avoided criticism and advise like, “You are always complaining. If you read it carefully, you would understand…” Instead, father complemented his son for his power of observation.

5. Power of acknowledgement. Nicole, a freshman high school student, stormed out of her room yelling, “It’s unfair! My Math teacher gave 20 algebraic equations to solve. I have been working over them for two hours. I’m not doing it anymore.” What started as a war cry was turned into a peace talk by Nicole’s mother. She did not argue with her. She listened and acknowledged her predicament: “Oh! Twenty algebraic equations! It sounds so difficult. It can be grueling tedious.” With this sympathetic acknowledgement the ranting and raving stopped. “Look ma, it’s not that bad.” She returned to her room and finished the work.

How parents remain in the background to give support

Parents should learn that in crises, it is best to help rather than preach. When you receive several unsatisfactory grades on your child’s report card, be compassionate. Know that when someone is drowning, it is not the right time to teach swimming. Say instead, “It makes us feel disappointed and discouraged too.” You may even challenge him, “It seems so complicated and difficult, almost incomprehensible.” He is likely to answer, “Not for me. I am good in Arithmetic…”

On other occasions, try telling him, “I wish you didn’t have so much work. I wish your evenings were free for enjoyment, reading a novel, watching TV.” He would answer, “That would be nice. But I have lots of work. I want to keep my 90s in Math and Science.”

When your child’s enormous amount of homework makes him angry to the point of hating his teacher and school, see his helpless point of view and say, “You have to do a tremendous amount of work.” Later, he is likely to thank you. What for? Such a child answered his mother, “You helped me because you didn’t make me madder than I was.”

Remaining in the background, parents can give comfort and support rather than voluntary instruction and active assistance. Occasionally, they may clarify a point. Their help is given sparingly but sympathetically. They listen rather than lecture. They show the road but expect the child to reach his destination on his own.

(For feedback email to precious.soliven@yahoo.com)

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