Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Homework Problem

My son is starting to get homework from school. He doesn’t like it.

As with many kids, he wants to put it off as long as he can. We want him to finish his homework before he does anything else. Therein lies the rub.

Yesterday, Kai’s homework was a page of various math problems. He and Mom got to his speech therapist’s office early, so he nicely completed half of the homework while they were waiting. Sounds good, right?

Except that he cherry picked the easiest problems to work on with Mom. When they came home, Mom prepared dinner while I had the duty of getting Kai to complete the rest of his homework.

Of course, he really rather wanted to play with the new toys/games that he got for Hanukkah. I thought for sure that would serve as motivation for getting his homework done quickly. But, no. It was incredible how much time he spent complaining about not wanting to do the homework. Pointing out that he could have finished his homework in all the time he spent whining about it did not seem to motivate him or to improve his mood.

Once he actually started to work on it, I hoped that he would get through it quickly. Hey, I wanted to play the new video game, too. Unfortunately, those hopes were soon dashed.

“T is 28 less than 35. What is T?” Kai knew to subtract 28 from 35. “Less than means subtraction,” he said. Well, not necessarily, I told him. He did not seem to hear me.

“56 is 106 less than T. What is T?” He subtracted 56 from 106. I tried to get him to pause and think about it. He insisted on writing the wrong answer. I quietly said to think about what the question is asking. “Let’s read the question again. Is T more than 56 or less than 56?” He realized he had the answer wrong to begin with. He does not like to be wrong. He got more agitated.

For another problem, I handed him some paper. “It will be easier to do if you write the equation on the scratch paper.” He insisted on doing it in his head. He made an error. I again suggested that he write out the equation and check his work. He angrily wrote out the equation and got even more upset when he had to correct his mistake.

The more homework he did, the more frustrated he became.

I guess I could have just let him do it the wrong way, not bother correcting him, and let the teacher explain to him what he did wrong. But, I really wanted to teach him and give him tips to help him figure out the problem himself in the future. I’m stubborn that way. But, I will have to think about how I can teach him while keeping him from getting so frustrated.

In the end, he took so long to do his homework that we did not have time for the video game before dinner. However, he did eat dinner quickly so we had some time to play before bedtime.

When I was a child, I did not like homework either. I had thought that my days of not having to deal with homework were long past. But, as the father of a first grader, I think my latest homework problems are just beginning.

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