A New Year - A New Start
When I see school supplies in the stores, I am instantaneously taken back to a very pivotal September. It was in 1982 when seeing the same supplies gave me a panic attack. On that day seeing pencil bags, pens, paper, folders, and new backpacks sent a message to me, “Your lazy carefree days of summer are over.” I knew the following days would be filled with carpools and the dreaded nights packed homework struggles. Being a teacher didn’t help my situation, because to my children, I was their mother, not the teacher. I really didn’t think I could bear another year of struggles. At the same time, I had a game changing event happen in my classroom. Susie, who wasn’t listening, told me it was okay if she didn’t listen in class because her mother would help her at home. I realized she had no reason to listen because she could rely on outside help. So I made a decision. I decided to stop parent involvement in homework for my students, and I removed myself from my daughter’s.
I began the year by informing my daughter that I was not going to be able to help her with her homework, because I had not idea how to do it. As a result, I asked her to be sure she could do every item on her homework before she left class. If she couldn’t, she was instructed to ask the teacher for help. Playing dumb was very powerful. Her first response was one of FEAR. She had several reasons that this new situation was not going to work: The teacher will get mad. There isn’t time to ask questions. I’ll get in trouble for asking a question. With a little role playing of how to ask for the help, my daughter hesitantly went off to school. I am a little sneaky, but I knew I would have to elicit the help of the teacher for this new approach to work. As my daughter left for school, I phoned the teacher and was fortunate enough to reach her. I shared my new approach and that my scared daughter was going to reluctantly talk to her about the type of help she would need this year. I also asked if she could help put my daughter’s unrealistic fears of getting in trouble for asking questions to rest. Her teacher was very responsive and it set the stage of self-advocacy for my daughter. It also ended to our nightly stress from homework. I didn’t need to do much after that other than rehearse some ways my daughter could ask questions effectively. There were teachers who were less than open to her questions, but we role played dealing with them. To this day my daughter swears those role-playing sessions helped with her interactions with supervisors she encountered in her career. Try it. You’ll love it.
For more support on making the transition to No Help Homework, check out my Homework Solutions: A Teacher’s Guide and Homework Solutions: A Parent’s Guide.