I’m not a big homework fan. I’m not a big homework foe. In my life on my own four of five weeknights with my three boys (7, 5 and 2), homework is mostly another pesky thing I haven’t been getting around to.
But it’s interesting that we’ve been talking about it on 4Mothers, because I have just recently suggested to my oldest son that he stay up just a bit later than his brothers so we can do some “homework”. Apart from a bit of reading, he actually hasn’t been assigned any homework. But he actually really likes practicing his writing and doing worksheets, and would probably benefit from the extra practice, and I was feeling a bit lame about not following an expressed interest.
So we’ve been implementing this new homework window. It’s not ideal learning time, being at the end of the day, and it’s early days. But it’s been going really well anyway.
Still, I’ll confess to a secret: I’m not carving this time out just for the homework, maybe not even primarily for the homework. When I noticed that my oldest didn’t seem to need quite as much sleep as his brothers (and I would prioritize sleep over homework for sure), I saw an opportunity. A window of time, brief but available, for my son and me to have some time alone. A period for him to have my attention, undivided, to help him read a book, practice writing, or add some numbers together.
Or to put together a little Lego. Last night, after labouring through a book that would normally not be a challenge, my son asked if we could “just chill”. I had used this expression earlier as a possibility along with homework for our time together – he heard it and he wanted it. And I did too. He requested that I sit next to him while he built a Lego plane, even though he can do it alone. It was late and we didn’t finish it, and cooperative first child that he is, he didn’t complain. It was really too brief a period, but at least we had it.
The more I move along in my life, the more I want the things I do to have overlapping functions and benefits. Our new homework routine hits the mark. It helps me support my son’s reading and skills development, but it also creates pleasant associations with formal learning, acknowledges the fact that he is older and distinct from his brothers, and opens up a little pocket of one-on-one time that both of us truly crave. We are both eager for this time.
If it wasn’t a multi-faceted win, I’m not sure I would do it. My kids are still quite young, and I’d rather they dream than drill. But our little homework window is working well so far, and I’ve been thinking of ways to improve upon it. Maybe make a little tea? Maybe a candle at the table? But I think my best idea is to just sit down and do my own work alongside my son. Maybe talk a little. I love his company, and it would be such a nice way to let the curtain down on the day’s activities.
Oh, and the homework might get done too.
You actually make homework time sound pleasant and not the crazy, Intense, stress filled time that it is with my 7 year old. 🙂
It has been so far – we save our crazy time for other occasions ;).
This is a great idea! I’ve had more time alone with my daughter, as my son is going to a different school and sometimes gets an escort home from his grandparents. Last week, it was tea and creating a recipe (or, honing our math and wordpress skills – result: http://www.thelunchboxseason.com/2013/10/05/almond-butter-chai-spice-cake/ ). This week, I think we’ll do a little reading together by candlelight!! Thanks for the suggestion!
The precious one-on-one learning time can take on so many different forms – love your post about the recipe.
This encapsulates one of the things I hate about homework, actually–that it drives my younger child BONKERS when I sit down to try to focus on something one-on-one with her big sister. I am simultaneously ignoring her and depriving her of her playmate. It’s really all-round unpleasant. Unfortunately the older one is an early riser–her waking time is not affected by a later bedtime–and so she really does need to be going to bed at the same time as her little sister. The little one is now starting to be interested in printing, so what I really need to do is be more organized so I can set her to work at the same time, in case that would help. Thanks for this post–it’s forced me to think that through!
Giving your younger child something to work on too sounds like a great idea – you can be in it together. The other thought is since your oldest is the early riser, maybe you could carve a little time in the morning just with her – assuming of course that you are an early riser too (big assumption!).
What a terrific idea — looking for ways to make things multi-faceted is brilliant, adds meaning for all parties involved. Nicely done!
I’m trying to apply the multi-faceted premise to basically everything – exercise (walking dates (exercise) with friends (social), outside (get outdoors)), blogging (creativity, collaborate effort with friends, learning new things), etc. I love it!
I loved reading this article! What a terrific way to just be together! Homework or not these quality moments are few and far between for us aswell (I, too have three kids, 9,6,3) and I try to find ways to give one on one with each of them with little or no success.
I am looking forward to using this tactic with my son (9), who I feel gets the short end on the quality time scale.
Thanks for sharing!!!
I couldn’t agree more, Christina – it is a constant effort (not always successful) to give the three kids the one-on-one we all need. Even small windows help (so I tell myself)…
I work with the boys on their handwriting at home, and while I was working with the older ones last night, I pulled out a book of handwriting instruction for adults. For 20 minutes, while they printed and worked on cursive, I made lines and loops, and let me tell you it was HUMBLING. I got to say, in all honesty, that I totally identified with their struggles because as hard as I tried, my lines and loops did not look like the nice neat rows in the instruction book. Humbling. And a wonderful parenting moment because we were all in it together.
I looked over someone’s shoulder the other day, who was reading a book in another language. I’m embarassed to say I couldn’t even recognize what the script was. All I saw were tiny slanted vertical lines with slight variations that looked exactly the same, and I gratefully thought I’m so glad I don’t have to learn how to read that. And it reminded me of the task before our kids. Wonderful that you were working alongside your kids when you had a similar moment of humility!
I love your homework window on so many different levels. First of all, it is wonderful that you get to spend time alone with your oldest child. I am sure that he loves getting your attention without competition. Secondly, it sounds like a great way for you to wind down at the end of the day, too. Thirdly, even though he may not actually have homework, it is important that kids learn to sit down in a quiet spot and do some work. I’m sure he will have homework at some point.
I agree! Encouraging some focused time to do any kind of work is so important.
I may be crazy but I am actually looking forward to homework time with my kids. It have brothers who are much much younger than me, and I would come home from high school or college and help them with their homework. It was some of my favorite times with them. Because, just as you said, it’s that one on one time with them. I have found you can find out how they are really doing during those times. I especially agree about not being super rigid about it if it’s not assigned. I love it!
I *love* your story about helping your brothers with their homework – beautiful.