Thursday, May 13, 2010

Therapy Thursday - Outsourcing Homework Help

Homework - it is the bane of my existence, okay, maybe not the bane of my existence but it's pretty close.

Every Monday, my daughter comes home with her lime-green homework packet. In my mind, homework is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, you never know which one you are going to get. It's either, let's break out the champagne, we're done or someone's going to die (yes, a tad bit dramatic but it's true), but hey these are my feelings and you must accept them.

My daughter's homework is split into two components, math and reading. The reading assignment consists of reading a set of chapter books that my daughter has chosen. Once she has completed the reading, she must write the name of the book, the author's name and a comment about the book. Seems simple doesn't it and usually it is.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter got her knickers in a twist or should I say her knickers were completely wrapped too tightly around her head. She literally worked herself into an irrational frenzy about how the starter sentences did not make sense for her to write her comments.

At the beginning of the year, a page of starter sentences were included in the homework packet to help the kids write their comments. Sentences such as "I liked it when.., I enjoyed..., I was happy when.., My favorite character is.."  You get the idea.

First, she couldn't find the starter sentence page and then she could not get any of the starter sentences to "work" for her. They made no sense to her.

When I say she is an irrational frenzy, I mean she is hysterical, crying, frustrated and writhing on the floor say over and over again "that makes no sense."  I literally read her 20 starter sentence to which she replied to each of the starter sentences, "that makes no sense, that sentence makes no sense" over and over again.  Good grief.

This went on for twenty minutes where I tried to reason with her and try to calm her down. Finally, I redirected her  to start her math homework, at which she finally calmed down.

The next week, it was math's turn. Oh good, lord. First of all, the overwhelming insanity of math is that it's TERC math. What's TERC math, you ask? TERC math is some crazy new math that the NYC public schools are teaching.  TERC math is all about the how to solve a math problem as opposed to simple memorization. It's all about using friendly numbers like "10" and using manipulatives to add/subtract numbers to come up with the answer. That is in it's simplest form.

For the math homework, the kids have to "show" how they solved the problem. You would think that DOE would have simple worksheets for the parents on how to show the work but no, that would be too simple to help and engage the parents  since every one over the age 25 learned math another way.

That said, on average, my daughter's math homework is pretty simple but every few weeks, there is a speed bump that just throws off the entire homework session.

So given that it's up to my daughter to learn TERC math in school, retain it and then be able to do the homework with no parental assistance shows you where I am going with this, right.

I won't go into the problem she was trying to solve but needless to say her written explanation of the response was wrong and as she explained it three times to me, increasingly getting more upset and frustrated and yelling (yes, yelling) "mommy, you are not listening." I, could only reply, "yes, I am listening but your answer is wrong." Let's face it, math is either right or wrong.

It took my having to draw all the numbers out for her see that her answer was wrong

As I am telling my therapist this, she says to me that I really need to consider "outsourcing" the homework. At first, I was somewhat hesitant as it seemed crazy, isn't that my job and shouldn't I be more patient to get through this.

Then I realized that she is right. The homework is going to get progressively more difficult and the arguments are going to get progressively worse if the situation doesn't change. At some point, she needs to learn to do the homework in a more relaxed and focused manner. I really don't want her to end up equating homework with arguing. Then the arguments won't be about the homework, it will deteriorate into doing the homework.

Yes, it may be more money but in the long run, I have to think what is best for our sanity and our relationship.


Yasmine's Mom said...

Another thing we have tried are study dates. Really, it is a hybrid of a play date and a study date. We spend one hour on school work and then do something fun only if the girls have behaved.

They usually enjoy playing school together and there are three moms total that rotate. Plus, it clears an afternoon for me.

NYC Single Mom said...

yasmines mom, that is a great idea. i am wondering is it a good idea to start earlier or maybe 2nd grade. Its a good way to show both kids that homework is fun but necessary. This is one of those instances in which peer pressure is good.

Yakini said...

Omg, I had already been kinda dreading when the day came that Chase would have homework that was challenging... but now you tell me there is a new way of doing math called TERC? *Yikes* I agree, the DOE should totally have some kind of guide pamphlet for parents to follow along.

I do have memories of my mom helping me with my homework (it was around junior high school) and frequently being tearful and angry at her, because I couldn't understand it, felt frustrated by that, and her calm/patient personality was very grating and irritating at that time. We definitely bumped heads around this time.

I think ure therapist's advice was awesome - eventually she may begin to equate the whole experience of homework as negative and associate it with conflict/arguing with mommy... and thus try to avoid it altogether. So that's great that you're gonna start helping her conceptualize it in a relaxed and focused way.

I'm eager to hear about how this all plays out.... cuz I know my day is coming SOON!

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