by Caryl Harvey
I was in the cell phone business office the
other day. The mom who works there was bemoaning that her boy was bright, but he wouldn’t apply himself. Why? He doesn’t know.
He does his homework, but he won’t turn
it in. This is a phenomenon that affects most of today’s kids. Okay. I
don’t know if it affects most kids. It affects mine, my grandkids and the woman at the phone company.
There seems to be a BIG attitude problem surrounding
So, do you suppose kids have too much? ( Homework, that is.)
Not according to Education expert Tom Loveless,
director of the Brown
Center on Education Policy, based in Washington,
D.C. Brown reported, in a USA Today Weekend article, three to twelve year olders spent an average of 134 minutes of study per week. Divide
that by 5 and you come up with about 27 minutes per night. Okay, that is probably a little misleading because the three year
olds probably didn’t do a lot of studying. But even if the total was 45 minutes a night, it wouldn’t be an excessive
amount of time to spend in study.
Cooper, an expert on homework, recommends ten minutes a day per grade level. A first grader would study 10 minutes. A sixth
According to current available data, the average
American high schooler spends five hours a week on homework. That’s the DAILY average in many high achieving nations.
And it’s not even a tenth of the time kids spend on out-of-school activities ( besides sleeping and eating.)
Kids spend a lot of time with their friends.
And, according to the USA Today article, that has a detrimental effect on academic
performance. A social life is an expensive item, time-wise. Added to the amount of time they spend is the cumulative attitude
kids adopt which devalue learning. Think PEER PRESSURE. In a recent poll, only
one teen in three said that their friends thought grades were important. But another poll—taken by Agenda, a non-partisan
educational polling group—said that teens felt adults did not demand enough from them.
SO HOW DO WE GET THE KIDS TO DO THEIR HOMEWORK
(AND TURN IT IN?)
1) Model the attitude you want your kids to adopt. Show
them you are interested in current events. Help them with their homework…and if you can’t, at least show involvement.
Assist them in finding the answers.
2) Don’t take TV away from them altogether. It seems
that moderate viewers (an hour a night) do better academically than non-watchers. Why? Perhaps, say the pundits, because the
kids become discriminating and learn to manage time. Also, they tend to get current events from TV. And American kids watched
no more TV on average than kids in foreign countries. BUT kids who watch three or more hours an evening did significantly
poorer academically than those who watched only an hour a night. (This almost sounds like the recommendation by the AMA for
drinking a glass of wine once a day for your health and relaxation. My Uncle Arnie decided to adopt the standard—retroactively.
Uncle Arnie is so relaxed now that he wouldn’t be shaken by news of a world-wide
ban of Big Macs. And he’s only up to 1976.)
3) Limit sports and clubs. The average American teen spends
ten to fifteen hours a week on extra-curricular activities. Some participation is healthy. More than one youngster has stuck
with high school to get an athletics scholarship. And for kids who don’t plan on higher education, sports can offer
a chance to succeed. But the polls found that kids who spent twenty or more hours on extracurricular activities ( like varsity
practices) fail academically. They may take time earmarked for homework or study and apply it to their clubs or sports. At
any rate, if a child struggles academically, parents must make the hard choices. (This even applies to part-time jobs. Parents
have to prioritize because kids will not see choices clearly.)
4) Generally, kids need help with organization. Help them
set up a routine. If they are moderately successful in their studies, older kids should have some leeway in deciding the environment
of their study area ( though TV is a definite NO during homework and study time.)
5) If a child doesn’t do his homework, or doesn’t
hand it in, USE YOUR PARENTAL POWER. Take away privileges:
the phone, car keys, video games. But DON’T TAKE AWAY PRIVILEGES UNTIL THE NEXT REPORT CARD. Most kids can’t delay
gratification that long. They’ll give up. AND LIMIT--RATHER THAN STOP—sports and club activities.
6) Maintain contact with the school. Our school system
has a parent bridge—an Internet site where teachers post grades and assignments and where parents may email teachers
about problems. If you don’t have this system, use your phone. Keep up on your child’s performance. Don’t
let a failing grade be a surprise to you—and don’t let your child tell you it is a surprise to him. Address problems
like tardiness and skipping classes when they are small. They could be symptoms of an overwhelmed child, of poor choice in
peers or even of the beginnings of substance experimentation.
7) Don’t be afraid to ask the teachers for specific involvement. Ask for a signature on an assignment notebook and
you sign the homework paper. Ask the teacher to “sign the assignment in.”
8) Insist that the child do papers listed as “incomplete”
even if he gets no credit for them. The assignments are given to teach skills. And the accountability of following through
teaches a skill in itself.
It doesn’t seem fair that we Beyonders must spend
so much effort on homework. I can diagram a sentence. I can use Algebra (sort of.) I did my homework (sometimes) and I believe I always turned it in. In short, I was a model student. But I’m a Beyonder.
Would you expect less?