My First Grader Hates Homework

Does your first grader hate homework? Or is that just mine?

Guess what….he isn’t the only one. I hate it too.

And maybe that’s part of the problem.

Was homework for first grade always a thing?

Well, first of all, you should know that homework didn’t become such an essential part of education until relatively recently. In fact, way back in the day, due to the amount of time that American children needed to dedicate to chores and farmwork, most American families didn’t bother with it, even when it was assigned.

In 1901, the state of California actually passed an act abolishing homework for anyone under the age of 15. (source) Others argued that requiring children to complete homework after school hours violated child labor laws.

It wasn’t until the 1950s when homework finally got a toehold in American culture, and it grew steadily into the monster that it is today.

However, I (and most parents) don’t recall homework being much of a thing in first grade.

Why is homework necessary in the first grade?

That’s actually hard to say. When you talk to the professionals about it, usually the spiel you receive is that homework at that age is an important part of teaching kids about time management and personal responsibility.

They might also tell you that homework:

  • reinforces skills and concepts learned in class
  • prepares the kids for upcoming lessons
  • teaches them to work independently
  • allows parents to have an active role and to evaluate their progress

(source)

Which is laughable, considering who is doing the homework management and time management when the child is six years old.

What to do if your child hates homework?

I think the first thing you need to do is to step back and take a deep breath. If you are feeling frustrated or struggling with this whole homework thing, you just need to chill a bit. The kids take their cues from us. If we get heated, they are going to get heated, and any feelings of frustration or dislike he is feeling is just going to be amplified for your negativity.

Next, let’s take a look at what is happening when and how he is hating on his homework. Is homework something that gets done right after school when your child is starving? Or done instead of playing outside or at the park, or before he has had a chance to blow off some steam? Is he really tired, or upset from someone else that occurred during the day? A lot of times our child’s negative feelings have a lot less to do with the focus on that negativity, and more about how they feel in general or even about something else that happened that day.

Let’s look at the work? Is it super boring? Like rows and rows of math problems? Just more of the same practice work that he worked on all day at school?

HELLO! No wonder he is tired of doing it. I’m tired of it just thinking about it!

After you’ve taken a chill and then spent some time gathering information and some data about the situation, it is time to talk to your child. If he’ll talk to you, that is. And I don’t recommend doing it while he is trying to do his homework. Instead, I’d try to talk to him when he is fresh, alert, and not currently trying to actively avoid his homework. Don’t lead him to answers, but see if you can pin point the specifics of his feelings about it. Maybe it’s boring.

Or maybe it is something else entirely….like he really doesn’t understand it, and needs help. Think about all the dyslexic kids out there in the world who, before their diagnosis, couldn’t even really explain why things were so hard? They had no idea they were different than the other kids. Sitting with him while he does his homework (but not doing it for him) will help you gather more information about what is happening and why.

If you can’t work through it calmly at home, you should talk to his teacher. Try and figure out what the point of the assignments is, so you talk to your child about what it is the teacher is trying to do. You can also talk to him/her about the need for the homework, or the type of it. If the homework is just rote practice, maybe you can ask for assignments that are more stimulating in some way, that might inspire your student a bit more.

Other potential tips for getting through homework time with a minimum of complaining:

  • Stop trying to do 10 other things while your child is doing homework. It is easy for him to get distracted, especially when he is tired. If you are running around after the other kids, making dinner, and talking on the phone, he’s not going to enjoy his homework. (Can YOU work while people run around you very well?)

  • Make sure he is fueled up. Kids come home from school SUPER hungry. I have no idea why. I know my kids eat at school. But when they get home they just need calories, and right away. This is a terrible time to try and attack homework.

  • Try doing a homework club with friends. I have had good luck meeting up with another mom and encouraging our sons to do their homework together. They enjoy doing it at the same time much more than they enjoy doing it with the moms or dads alone.
  • Sit with them, and be present with them while they do homework (and not surf your phone).

  • Before homework time, try letting him run around or play outside for a while, to get the wiggles out and to reset and refresh. My kids’ attitudes are tons better about everything after they have been outside for a while.

After all this is said and done, and your child still hates homework, I honestly wouldn’t sweat it. If your child is in track scholastically, and is showing no other signs or delays in any way, I don’t think this is something to break the bank over. Eventually, your child is going to have to learn that he has to do his homework to get good grades, if he wants good grades, that is.

I wouldn’t give him the opportunity to play video games instead of doing his homework. But I would sit him down in a quiet place for 15-20 minutes for homework time, and whatever gets done, gets done.

What if the reason he hates homework is the way that you are a parent, make him do it? If homework time is stressful, frustrating, full of yelling? That sounds extreme (and probably isn’t your house), but imagine how much you’d look forward to homework time if it were?

Your baby is six or seven years old when he is in the first grade. This is our chance as parents to inspire a life and love of learning. Kids naturally are curious and love to learn. Don’t beat that out of them by demanding that they spends hours laboring over math problems in the first grade.

Instead, set aside the time the teachers wants (my son’s teacher says she wants 10-15 minutes a night) and then be done with it. A minimum of stress, frustration, and tears. Don’t bribe him to finish it, and don’t punish him if he doesn’t get it all done, or make him sit for any longer. When it is over, it is over. Don’t belabor it, or fight about it.

I think my son understands that I think homework in the first grade is ridiculous, and he plays into that.

But it’s true, I do. And for that reason, I’m not going to sweat how well he does his homework right now. And I don’t think you should either.

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