Homework: What To Do When Students Don't Do It
By Susan Kruger
There is a form on
my website where I ask people to tell me their greatest
concerns/challenges regarding homework. It is probably no surprise
that a significant number of teachers have responded with comments
"Students don’t do it."
If you are like me,
then you probably don’t have fond memories of homework yourself, but
you likely did it.
It was not because
you liked it. It was not because you couldn’t find anything better
to do. (Yes, we had TV as kids. Some of us even had video games,
too. We are not that old…) You did it because you wanted to get a
good grade. Or, you did it to avoid having to answer to your mom
who would give you "That Look" and ground you until you were dead.
Or, you did it because it just needed to be done.
So, the real
question is, "Why don’t students seem to care about homework?"
There are a variety of possible answers, but the best advice I can
offer is this…Ask them! You, of course, can provide additional
insight. Share your experiences with homework when you were younger
and then explain why you value it as an adult. The more relevance
children see to the "real world" the more likely they are to value
Meanwhile, I would
venture to guess that many of their answers will sound like these:
"What’s the point? Why do I need to do it?"
"It takes too much time!"
"Homework causes fights in our family."
"It’s just a couple of assignments…what’s the big
"I lose my homework a lot."
"I don’t know how to do it."
Each of these
responses could inspire their own book, but we will settle for a few
Point? Why Do I Need To Do It?"
The child who asks
this question is begging to understand a real-world purpose for
homework. They need help understanding that homework is not just
practice on the topic taught in class, but practice for developing
responsibility. Homework may not be fun, but completing it on time
is good practice for the day when they are employed and have to
complete a project on time. It is practice for paying bills and
keeping a roof over their head.
helps build responsibility skills in the same way that lifting
weights build muscle. They literally program neuron pathways in the
brain that develop responsibility. Developing "responsibility
muscle" will directly impact their ability to earn more money in the
"It Takes Too
Homework takes too
much time because students do not know strategic learning skills for
doing homework more efficiently. They are also busy "multi-tasking"
by doing homework while texting, watching TV, or surfing the
internet which is a major time drain. Teach your children
time-management and study skills to help them cut homework time or
enroll them in a study skills class.
Fights in Our Family."
As I have said many
times, homework is the greatest lever of control that a student has
over their parent(s). They may not quite realize they are striving
for control, but they do know that they don’t like being told what
"It’s Just a
Couple of Assignments. What’s the Big Deal?"
Children are often
oblivious to the impact one or two "zeros" have on their overall
grade. Encourage them to track their grades so they can see the
math for themselves. If your school makes grades available
electronically, have them log in and see how their grade changed
after that big ‘ol "0" was plopped in the homework column. In 95%
of middle and high school classes, students can pass with a "C" if
they simply turn in all homework and show up for tests and quizzes.
It’s not rocket science... but they think it is until they see the
math for themselves.
"I Often Lose My
In most cases, your
children do not deliberately lose homework. Imagine if we, as
adults, had several different email accounts to manage each day?!?
We would be completely overwhelmed and frustrated! The same is true
for students who are trying to manage dozens of papers along with a
couple dozen folders, notebooks, and textbooks that must be
transported to-and-from school and individual classes each day.
Students need a system to simplify and streamline all of their
"I Don’t Know
How To Do It."
Children are often
afraid to ask for help. Their teacher may have offered help to the
class and posted "Tutoring Lab" hours on the board, but many are
afraid to step forward and admit they need help. Or, they may
simply believe that the help is for "someone else" and may not
realize the potential value for themselves. As you know, there is
almost always a resource for students who are willing to get extra
help. Some may simply need an extra nudge.
The key to this
discussion is to listen 85% of the time. Let them be honest about
their feelings towards homework and acknowledge them. Brainstorm
problem-solving ideas together and allow your child to have some
ownership over some solutions.
On my website you
can download a free Homework Rx Toolkit that includes "25 Ways to
Make Homework Easier Tonight." Use that document as a starting
point to identify workable solutions together. As the parent, you
have to set expectations and boundaries, but you can also set the
stage for cooperation.
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