Homework tussles

May 7, 2008 at 11:05 p.m. ET

When the school year begins, it can be hard to settle into a routine after the lazy days of summer. But settle into a routine we must - for mealtime, bedtime, homework time.

Unhappy boy reading outside
Through the winter, the routine is our friend. While we are not rigid in the structure, we do generally maintain it and it does help ensure things get done that need to be done. We generally hit a real stride in terms of routine in late February and March. But then spring arrives with warmer weather, more activities, more sunlight, and we are struggling to maintain any semblance of routine and the things that need to be accomplished with it.

When it's the homestretch of school, it gets harder and harder for all of us to be motivated to keep the homework routine going. I would like, as much as the boys, to hang out in the yard with them after school, but if I don't help get them moving on homework shortly after they arrive home, it becomes a protracted effort that is frustrating for all of us.

It seemed like a fine idea

The other day, Woody came home from school and asked if he could do his homework outside. It was a gorgeous day. I thought on it for a few moments. We had limited time due to baseball games, so homework need to be wrapped up in a set amount of time: within 45 minutes. I also noted that it was the first day in a long time Woody had prepared to do his homework on his own and without my prompting. I said sure.

Woody sat in a spot I couldn't see easily, so I made sure to make the effort to look at him every few moments. It seemed that every time I looked out, he was staring into the sky. After about 25 minutes, Woody came back in and said it was too distracting to be outside. He said the birds were really loud. I told him that I was proud of him recognizing the distraction and making a change.

Then I looked at his workbook as he sat at the kitchen table. He had completed exactly five math problems in those 25 minutes. He had many more to go. And spelling. And we needed to be done and ready to leave for baseball in 20 minutes. Uh oh. Woody's homework shouldn't take more that 25 minutes total, but he had barely begun. I doubted there was sufficient time. I tried to stifle my concern, but did not conceal it enough, which in turn caused Woody some stress. And it snowballed from there.

From beauty to battle

Unfortunately, those minutes outside and the time limits and maybe just the fact that it was a beautiful day meant we'd turned a homework corner. It was an absolute battle to get his homework done that day, and it included time and near tantrums on both sides of baseball.

That homework battle reminded me that no matter how "done" each of us feels with school right now, how ready for summer we are, we need to keep that routine going just a little bit longer, for all our sakes. School is still in session, and homework is still due.

For us, that means sitting down to homework at the kitchen table shortly after arriving home. Sadly, it does not mean sitting outside with so many lovely and melodious birds, warm sun on our faces. It also means keeping Sunshine occupied with her own "homework" (drawing), but in another room so she doesn't disturb the brothers.

Sticking to this general routine, hard as it is in the nice weather, is needed for these last few weeks of school. Just a little bit longer, Woody, and you can listen to all the birds you want.

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