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Do your homework! Check out what the research says about homework's efficacy.
How much is too much? Study our grade-by-grade guide to appropriate homework.
Looking for ways to reduce your child's workload? Get some tips from this anti-homework activist.
Study time vs. family time: Parents sound off on finding a balance between homework and home life.
A case of procrastinitus: One expert weighs in on a girl whose homework foot-dragging is making her fall behind.
Scattershot syndrome: A surprising diagnosis for a student struggling with disorganization and distraction.
Disorganization disorder: Can our expert help a middle-schooler struggling with structure?
By Chris Colin
So might her grades limit other job prospects down the road? Sarah says she's already got it figured out.
"I've wanted to be a model for a long time. I also want to work with children. Grades don't count for either of those. Grades don't matter in the real world," she says. And should the modeling work dry up? "When I'm older, I'm probably hoping to marry rich!"
Enter Carol Josel, a longtime learning specialist and the author of Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook (ScarecrowEducation, 2002) and Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook (ScarecrowEducation, 2003). Josel takes aim at Sarah's premise that homework is pointless.
"Some homework is just busywork, but most of it is important practice,” says Josel. “The school day just isn't long enough. There's not enough time for kids to practice whatever they learn that day. To me, homework is essential."
So how to impart that attitude to someone so defiant about homework? Josel says it's important to look for underlying issues, even if they don't seem apparent at first.
"With the astronomy, I would want her to see that she's selling herself short on the one thing she really likes by saying she can't do math," Josel says. "Somewhere in her head, I think she must understand her idea about modeling is not a reality. I think she's putting major walls up."
Knocking down those walls can be relatively simple.
"Baby steps. If she's getting overwhelmed, she needs to chunk [her assignments] one subject at a time. Start each night with the hardest work, so it's only the easier work that's left when she's tired,” Josel says. “The mom needs to set up a study schedule for her. Tell her, 'Look, give me just one hour — then you can watch TV.'"
"If there's work that's beyond her, go to the teacher for extra help,” she adds. “No teacher in his or her right mind will fail a student who's trying to do the homework."
Meanwhile, astronomy could be a hook for cultivating a more abiding interest in her schoolwork, Josel says. Her mom could take her to planetariums and talk to her about science, she advises. And it wouldn't hurt to appeal to Sarah's strong sense of logic:
"I might say to her, 'Sure, some homework is ridiculous. But you can prove your teachers wrong by doing it. They've already given you a label. Show them they've got you wrong.'"
Josel says none of these kinds of problems is easily solved. But there's good news: Success is contagious.
"Usually with kids, if you get one decent grade, it feels good and it builds on itself," she says. "Even if [Sarah] says she doesn't mind bad grades, nobody likes failure. It needs to be explained to her that failing at an early age becomes a habit. Models can fail too."
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