Monday, April 15, 2013

Homework and Teens

This topic, a hot and spicy one in our family these days, has been under deep scrutiny and debate over at Blogging Bout Boys. This is my take on the subject, but Jennifer has some well thought-out remarks on homework and boys. You will want to read these if it is a problem at your house, or if you have male children at all.

In a homeschooling family, there may very well be no such thing as "homework" or you may consider everything you do together as is all a question of attitude and vocabulary. When one of those homeschooled children goes to high school, the pressure to perform, for both parents and child, could feel rather intense all of a sudden. 

In our case, when D. decided to go to public school this year, entering high school as a freshman, there were, at first, two terms of straight A's, glowing reports from teachers and no worries. When the A's dropped down to less desirable grades...a lot husband and I felt compelled to intervene as the "responsible parents" and the ones who knew what this kid could do, when he made the decision to do so. This went against our whole homeschooling philosophy of gradually allowing a child to take responsibility for their own education as they mature and find interests to pursue, but he was no longer at home, was he? If one is going to play the school game, one needs to participate in all obligatory parts of it or be "left behind." Up until now, in order for the world, (or the educational system) to know what amazing children I have, I need only show them some of their work and write about what we are doing. Now the grades only will stand as evidence of the whole of his worth. It freaked me out.

Weeks of harping, cajoling, punishing, stress; both marital and household in general, had no tangible influence, except perhaps to let our son know we cared about what he DID more than about who he was. We gave a good lecture about college admissions, the main thing worrying me at the time, and let him know we were here for any help he would ask for, and that the math tutor was standing by, should he need either or both.
Now, I will admit to one caveat that has been put in place. In December, D. joined the show choir pit at school, as a guitarist. This meant a huge commitment for us as his family; afternoons and weekends of rehearsal, hours of volunteering and early morning rides to the tour bus on Saturdays...really early. What seemed overwhelming at the start turned out to be an incredible experience for D.; he was awarded "Outstanding Pit Member," he had a ball at every competition, the directors made a positive difference in his life, and he made great progress in both guitar and performance skills. I was glad we made the decision to let him try it. 

However, before the show choir season had even ended, he began training for next year's football program. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, came the motherly wail. This began when we were still badgering him daily about missing assignments and poor results on tests. Our first reaction was; "no football, ever." The grades had descended during the show choir season, but he was so happy to be playing guitar that we considered pulling him from it a cruel and unusual punishment.

The kid talks a great game. T. decided, after a long conversation with him, to let him train and to talk with the coach about the program, if D. set up the interview for us. However, on the question of school work, instead of either letting it go completely  or continuing with inefficient tactics, we chose to address training as a privilege to be earned. The grades need to go back up to par before he can start staying after school for anything else. Staying after or arriving early implies that he misses the bus and that someone must then come pick him up. "Allo, Mama?"

Permission to lift weights before or after school has not yet commenced, but I noticed last night that the grades have taken a turn for the better. I do not see this as coercion, more as encouragement and a natural consequence; before beginning something new, first fulfill your original responsibilities that you freely chose to take on. 

How about your house? Homework woes? What do you see as the main difference between homeschooling and school in this regard? What is your basic philosophy regarding "work" and your input as a parent? Has this changed as they've grown older? What are your best strategies/ worst problems?  Is your hair still its original color? Chime in and we will share solutions and stories together.


  1. I think you addressed the issue beautifully.

  2. One more thought: Sometimes, i think the dropping grades issue is partly kids learning what other kids do. Let's face it: Most American teenage boys do not place a high value on good grades and good performance in school.

  3. Thank you, Jennifer! Sadly, your second remark may be partially true. Personal pride in his work seems to be taking back over the "uncool" factor. Part of adolescence is figuring out who you are...and a mother's wish is for it to leave as few scars as possible, right?

  4. Teenagers are amazingly adept at driving one crazy, aren't they? At one moment, they display a maturity and capability which leaves one assured that they are, after all, heading in the right direction. Moments later you are ready to tear your hair out, one follicle at a time, when they showcase the exact opposite. I've said it to you before, and I'll say it again. D. has a VERY strong foundation, strong roots, in your amazing family. HE'll do just fine.

  5. Thank you, Marlis, that means a lot to me coming from you! You've hit the nail on the head; they are so very fluid, changeable and in the can make one happy for them or nuts!


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