Getting homework off to a good start, even in second grade

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  August 31, 2011 06:00 AM

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Dear Barbara,
With the start of the school year, my husband and I are trying to figure out how to manage screen time. Our oldest is entering second grade and we want to help him have good homework habits. We can already see that he's someone who will easily succumb to temptation. Are we over-thinking this? Is second grade too soon for us to be thinking about it?

From: Mom'nDad, Detroit

Dear Mom'nDad,

Absolutely not too soon to be thinking about it. In fact, I credit my son's second grade teachers -- shout-out for Sue Sherman and Larry Donovan; are you out there? -- for instilling organizational habits in my son that stayed with him all the way through school. When he first came home -- in second grade -- with a homework assignment pad, I thought it was way over the top. Too much too soon. But the teachers helped the class fill it in every day, and he took a huge amount of pride in keeping it neat. Truly, I think that's where he developed his handwriting, which is the best in the family, because there was accountability and recognition for legibility, etc.

Anyway, those same teachers urged students to have a no-TV policy on school nights. That was a real twist on things, because they created a classroom ethic around TV, where the kids came home and suggested this to the parents. You've got a favorite night-time show (well, no; most second graders don't, but there is an occasional sporting event), then record it and watch in on the weekend. Now I know that many teachers would be loathe to do this, and many parents would be up in arms if they did. But it worked.

So, no, I don't think it's too early, and yes, I'm all for a policy regarding screen use on school nights. There are many ways to do this, but I think the families that have the most success with this negotiate the rules rather than having parents impose them. Is there no TV at all? TV after homework is done? What procedure is there for verification that homework is done? Is computer screen time is separate from TV time, agree to when and how much? 10 minutes in between a subject? (This might not matter too much in second grade, but it will in later years.) Who keeps track of the 10 mins? (Hint: Use a timer. It's objective.)

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3 comments so far...
  1. Our rule on screen time is 30 minutes per kid on school days, and only after dinner if homework is completed. That does not include any time on the computer required for homework, obviously, but the kids do need to choose between computer, tv shows, and video games (DS or Wii). If they are watching/playing together, they do get to pool their time and go for a full hour. We tried allowing screens as soon as homework was completed, and found that homework was rushed through. We also tried allowing TV once both kids were ready in the morning, and that didn't work out either (they would claim they were ready but were not). Many days, they forget about screen time by the time dinner comes around, so it's effectively no screens most weeks. I'm also willing to be flexible - when it's really gross outside, I might allow some extra screen time as a treat.

    Posted by akmom August 31, 11 06:40 AM
  1. My son is entering third grade, and last year we implemented a "no tv during the week" rule....and Wii is for Wii-kends as well. My kids love TV (and my son loves Wii and his DS) and computer time more than they like just about anything. Despite my best efforts to limit it all along, to my chagrin it is what they'd choose first and for the longest duration as an activity on any day of the week. So I have to be strict with it.

    I had assumed we we would go with "tv after homework is done," but it didn't work out. Last year when the homework was significantly stepped up, complete with assignment notebook and monthly projects, I noticed he was rushing through things (and not doing a very good job) so he could get to the TV/Wii/whatever. So I axed it completely on school days, with the caveat that I would offer it on occasion. And I did - a rainy day when homework was light and we didn't have anyplace to be - perfect afternoon for a movie and some cocoa.

    Posted by RH August 31, 11 07:07 AM
  1. Some studies suggest that homework in the elementary grades is unproductive, but at the same time your concerns about "screen time" make some sense.

    Think from the positive. What would you like to see him doing with that after-school time? Practicing an instrument? Running around outside? Recreational reading? Helping prepare dinner? There needs to be a time to complete whatever homework is assigned, but that shouldn't be the end of the discussion.

    Posted by TF September 4, 11 01:49 PM
 
3 comments so far...
  1. Our rule on screen time is 30 minutes per kid on school days, and only after dinner if homework is completed. That does not include any time on the computer required for homework, obviously, but the kids do need to choose between computer, tv shows, and video games (DS or Wii). If they are watching/playing together, they do get to pool their time and go for a full hour. We tried allowing screens as soon as homework was completed, and found that homework was rushed through. We also tried allowing TV once both kids were ready in the morning, and that didn't work out either (they would claim they were ready but were not). Many days, they forget about screen time by the time dinner comes around, so it's effectively no screens most weeks. I'm also willing to be flexible - when it's really gross outside, I might allow some extra screen time as a treat.

    Posted by akmom August 31, 11 06:40 AM
  1. My son is entering third grade, and last year we implemented a "no tv during the week" rule....and Wii is for Wii-kends as well. My kids love TV (and my son loves Wii and his DS) and computer time more than they like just about anything. Despite my best efforts to limit it all along, to my chagrin it is what they'd choose first and for the longest duration as an activity on any day of the week. So I have to be strict with it.

    I had assumed we we would go with "tv after homework is done," but it didn't work out. Last year when the homework was significantly stepped up, complete with assignment notebook and monthly projects, I noticed he was rushing through things (and not doing a very good job) so he could get to the TV/Wii/whatever. So I axed it completely on school days, with the caveat that I would offer it on occasion. And I did - a rainy day when homework was light and we didn't have anyplace to be - perfect afternoon for a movie and some cocoa.

    Posted by RH August 31, 11 07:07 AM
  1. Some studies suggest that homework in the elementary grades is unproductive, but at the same time your concerns about "screen time" make some sense.

    Think from the positive. What would you like to see him doing with that after-school time? Practicing an instrument? Running around outside? Recreational reading? Helping prepare dinner? There needs to be a time to complete whatever homework is assigned, but that shouldn't be the end of the discussion.

    Posted by TF September 4, 11 01:49 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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