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From the very first time kids bring home extra work — through high school and beyond, it can be a contentious time. Kids don’t get it, parents have to re-learn it, and the mere nightly ritual of sitting at the table for school work can be downright depressing.

We’ve recently changed schools, and while the former school did assign homework, it was not in the same quantities of this new school. We’d maybe get a worksheet here or there that reviewed what my 9-year-old was working on in class and he sort of knew how to do it, or at least what tactics to use to figure it out.

Homework Challenges
But now, starting a new program, he gets hard homework covering every subject! That means high frustration and super-duper struggles as he fights to catch-up to the rest of the class.

One big challenge comes not only when he attempts a novel skill but also if I tell him he needs to “look at it again”. This little Super Hero is a perfectionist, and those four words can trigger a meltdown. In order to get through the piles of practice, I’ve had to pull from ALL my training, formal and informal, life lessons and observations.

Solutions to H-o-m-e-w-o-r-k Challenges
Happy: Starting out on the right foot is key. I let Jake sharpen the pencils he wants to use. He usually picks a few different ones with pictures on them and where he wants to sit at the table. So we start out happy.

Outline: Then I outline all we have to do so he has an idea of how big that mountain is to climb.

Manage your time: We do work first then bike ride or scooter. If he’s working for a huge reward, you must deliver. No matter what. Don’t start doing work 15 minutes before supper time or bed time and run out of time for the treat! That will make it even harder to sit down next time and he won’t believe you when you promise another reward. {I tried setting an end time really far away, but since he is a clock watcher, I ended up taping paper over the microwave and stove numbers which then breeds anxiety. A small [easyazon-link asin=”B000J5OFW0″ locale=”us”]timer[/easyazon-link] on the table is my next option. “Work for 10, break for 3.”}

Empower: I usually choose two pieces of work and hold them up. “Do you want math first or reading first?” When he has the choice, he feels like he has some input, aka: presumed control.

Work: Time spent on actual problems should be short.

Offer: If I start seeing signs of frustration early on, I offer help right away. “If you need help, you can ask me.”

Reinforce: Reward even the smallest of success. In the beginning, Jake would get reward (edible or primary or nickels) for each problem. Fade the very frequent rewards as you would fade prompts.

Know your kid: Jake cannot handle sitting to work for more than 15 minutes, so I pace everything out. Even if he seems to be going at a good clip, I alternate homework with favored tasks. We may do three math problems, then a quick pattern game, puzzle, coloring or matching and back to the next few problems. This isn’t about keeping him working as much as it’s about building confidence and excitement for work.

Take One Day at a Time
I have to constantly remind myself to stay calm, stay positive and keep perspective. Last year he had no idea multiplication and division even existed.