Parents Who Have Done Their Homework
PARENTS who do their homework provide their children with the things they really need. Obviously, this involves more than simply paying the bills. Such parents also help their children develop proper values and goals in life, and they give them plenty of time and loving concern.
“When the children were younger, we crawled on the floor with them, banged pots, wore pan covers as helmets, and swung kitchen ladles at one another to act out famous Bible characters in historic events,” explains Wayne, a father of four. “The kids loved it.”
As the children grew older, Wayne and his wife, Joanne, adjusted their teaching methods; yet they continued to stir their children’s imagination and desire to learn. They thereby practiced some of the finest principles of teaching. Julie M. Jensen, president of the U.S. National Council of Teachers of English, believes that a good teacher never forgets his own childish excitement when he was learning, and he nourishes this in his students.
The Importance of Praise
Wayne and Joanne developed a system to help their children with their schoolwork. There is an “in” basket in the kitchen where the children put their graded papers on arriving home from school. Joanne reviews the papers while the children play or do their homework, and at supper the family often discuss them. The better ones are displayed on the refrigerator and on the kitchen walls, which resemble a cluttered art gallery.
“It is our way of extending praise to the children,” says Joanne, “and they thrive on it.” In the living room, the family has an “out” basket where the finished homework goes before bedtime. “This way,” explains Joanne, “we don’t have to look for it in the morning when the children are rushing off to school.”
Beatrice, a mother of two girls, also decorates her kitchen with the schoolwork of her children. She says: “I do it because I’m proud of my kids and want them to know it.”
Recognizing the high value of praise, the Dallas, Texas, Independent School District encourages its volunteer tutors to make generous use of encouraging expressions, such as: Terrific! Much better. Keep it up! Good for you. That’s clever. Exactly right. Very creative. Good thinking. Excellent work. Now you’ve got it. I appreciate the way you’re trying.
If you are a parent, could you give encouragement more often?
Providing Support in Other Ways
In addition to praising their children’s efforts, parents who do their homework cultivate a home environment that is conducive to study. They get their children interested in reading and learning about the world around them.
“My parents supported me,” explained Julie, “by putting a fence around my study time. I had a particular place in the house to do my homework, and I was off limits to the rest of the family until it was done. During my study time, I was not required to do chores. Interruptions in my concentration were thereby avoided.”
Mark tells how his parents supported him and his sisters: “They made sure we always had available a dictionary and other books to assist us in our studies. They encouraged us to build personal libraries by letting us buy books we were interested in without having to pay for them out of our allowances.”
“We began our reading program with the children when they were about three months old,” explains Althea, mother of four. “It was difficult to maintain because, like many women today, I had to work. To make room for it, I had to buy out the time from other activities. The children had over 300 books—nursery rhymes, scientific books, all kinds. They would bring me their favorites to read to them. Sometimes I would skip sections to try to shorten the session, but that didn’t work. The kids always knew the missing part and would remind me by filling it in from memory!”
Johan from Finland says that his parents would read to him 10 to 15 minutes every night before bedtime. “I could pick the story,” Johan explains. “Mom would play the characters in the story. My sister and I got so attached to the arrangement that even when my parents didn’t have the time, we would pick out a book and try it on our own. This helped us develop very good reading habits. It has made our schoolwork easier and widened our world.”
Ravindira from Sri Lanka loved having her father put her to bed because of his reading style. “My favorite bedtime story was How the Camel Got Its Hump. Father would thump, pump, laugh, and do everything else during the reading. That was supposed to put me to sleep, but it only succeeded in keeping me wide awake and wanting more. He pretended not to know this, but he knew exactly what he was doing. Later, when I was older, he would let me carry the books back to the library. That made me feel important and further encouraged me to enjoy reading.”
Describing how her father helped her, Susan says: “Dad loved field trips. He would take me everywhere—museums, bird sanctuaries, libraries, to pick wild berries in the woods. Sometimes we would just explore unknown forest areas. We would come home all scratched up, but it was fun. Those trips gave purpose to my school studies.”
Emilo from Puerto Rico recalls: “My mother wanted us to know that we were always learning. When I would come home from school, she would ask, ‘So, what did you learn today?’ If I said, ‘Oh, nothing,’ she would come back with, ‘What do you mean, nothing? You must have learned something.’ She would stay with the questioning until I came up with what I had learned. She did the same thing with my two brothers. She wanted us to know that we were very important to her and that she cared for us. This made us a close-knit family.”
Cultivating Family Closeness
Successful families get along well together, but this requires effort. So parents who do their homework seek to cultivate a cooperative family spirit.
“We discuss family business honestly and almost on a daily basis,” observes Carol, a single parent of two teenage daughters. “Sometimes the girls will hold their problems back because they feel I have enough of my own. I can tell when they do this, for they get into arguments over silly things. I have to remind them that the family arrangement works best when we talk out our problems with one another honestly.”
Money is a source of problems in many families, but Carol says that her being open with the girls regarding the family’s financial situation has elicited their support. She explains: “I encourage them to find jobs to earn their own money for the extra things they would like. I respect them for earning it and let them know it is their money.”
Some parents use their family’s financial situation to teach their children budgeting, banking, and mathematical skills. “Another lesson we have been able to teach through this arrangement,” observes Henry, father of three boys and a girl, “is cooperation in family activities through involvement.”
But where can parents find the time for such homework? Audrey, a mother of two, says that because of her tight schedule, she invites the children to join her while she runs errands. She gets her talking time in then.
In order to do their homework well, parents need to learn to listen carefully to their children. As the Bible proverb says: “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction.” (Proverbs 1:5) Attentive listening builds trust, and this is vital in handling problems successfully.
For example, when Leon and Carolyn learned that their eldest daughter, Nikki, was skipping school and failing some courses, Carolyn’s first reaction was to blame the bad influence of school friends. However, Leon explained: “I suggested we reserve judgment until we had all the facts.”
“But even then,” Leon notes, “it took a week of patient, gentle probing and listening before we reached the root of Nikki’s problem. What a shock it was to us! Nikki felt we weren’t interested in her, since we had been so busy with our own activities! Carolyn and I made adjustments, and Nikki responded by becoming more alert to her responsibilities around the house and at school.”
Dan and Dorothy have eight children. These spend an hour and a half on school buses each day, and a major problem has been the worsening conditions there. “When the older ones were in school, it was an easy matter to utilize the time on the bus to do homework or catch up on reading,” Dan noted. “In just the last 12 years, however, that has all changed. Now there are many unwholesome distractions—foul language, loud rock music, and smoke from cigarettes and marijuana, usually in the rear of the bus.”
Dan explained that they brainstormed this problem with the children. “Two ideas surfaced,” he noted. “Sit as close to the bus driver as possible, and equip each child with lightweight headphones connected to a personal AM/FM cassette player. Now the children are able to isolate themselves from the trouble, enjoying easy-listening music while they read or do light homework. The solution seems rather simple, but it has worked!”
Working With the School System
During the school year, students spend about six hours a day under the direct influence of teachers. Parents who appreciate what that means in terms of learning potential for their children will want to see to it that this time is well spent. A mother of three children explained how she and her husband made sure that it was.
“When John and I were dissatisfied with one of our children’s classes,” she relates, “we would go to the school and work out a suitable adjustment with the guidance counselor, the teacher, or the principal. We stayed deeply involved in our children’s formal education from beginning to end. Now that it is over, we are satisfied they got the best of what was available to them.”
Children may need help with their schoolwork, and part of a parent’s homework should be to become involved. Yet, the parent wisely cooperates with the school system. “One thing I remember about my parents,” says Wesley, “is that they never interfered with the teacher’s classroom strategies. They realized that the teaching process can be varied.
“For example, when I was baffled by the process that would get me to the answer of a math problem, Dad would give me the answer and let me struggle with the process until I figured it out. I knew I had it when my answer matched Dad’s.”
Not an Easy Assignment
Any child will tell you that some homework assignments are harder than others. But the homework you parents have is much more difficult than any that you ever had in school. Indeed, rearing children successfully is a complex, long-term assignment. Some have called it a 20-year project.
The key to success includes being an attentive, friendly, understanding parent, one who knows the children well and responds to them as individuals. Remember, what your youngsters really need is personal attention that is demonstrated by loving concern for their welfare. Nourish in them a thirst for learning, and help them make the gaining of knowledge a pleasurable experience.
All the Effort Worth It
You parents who do your homework are self-sacrificing, not self-indulgent. You are ready to make adjustments. You realize that to help your children, you must ‘be there,’ and you must expend yourselves by providing the time, love, and concern that your children really need.
When you do your homework, the results may be comparable to the harvest of a farmer who prepares the soil and then plants, cultivates, and waters his crop. You may be rewarded with a delightful harvest. It is as the Bible says: “Train up a boy [or girl] according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”—Proverbs 22:6.
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What Else Can Parents Do?
In modern society, teachers and schools are important to the successful development of children. That doesn’t mean they can fulfill the role of parents, but they can be of vital assistance in rearing children successfully. So another homework assignment that you parents have is to cooperate as fully as possible with the school system in which your children are enrolled.
What, then, if there is a special function or program at school? For example, at a school in Massachusetts, there was a Student Awards Achievement Presentation program. “I went because I wanted my children to know I was proud of them,” explained Joanne, a mother of four boys. Twenty students received special achievement awards that day, yet most of the parents did not show up. Do you think that their absence encouraged their children to do better in school? Hardly!
Consider also the teachers. Schools often set aside evenings to exhibit the students’ work and to review their progress with parents, and many teachers give up personal time to prepare for these activities. One teacher observed: “We have our own families and our own lives to live too. It is discouraging when you spend so much time preparing for special events and see only one, two, or three parents all evening.”
As parents, you may at times expect schools and teachers to make adjustments to meet the special needs of your children. Should you not be willing to make similar sacrifices to support the efforts of the school system, especially since it is endeavoring to help your children grow into successful adults?
The brochure School and Jehovah’s Witnesses, published to promote understanding and cooperation between parents and teachers, outlined the following homework for Jehovah’s Witnesses who are parents: “It is important that parents become acquainted with their children’s teachers—making arrangements to meet and talk with them. . . .
“In such a meeting the Witness father or mother should let the teacher know that the parents expect proper Christian conduct from their children, and that if the children misbehave, they want to be informed. The parents also should give assurance that they will support the teacher in whatever reasonable discipline is administered, even reinforcing it at home.
“Other ways that parents can help: Make sure children get a good breakfast before they leave for school. See that their homework is complete and that they have all their books with them. Always show respect for school regulations and expect the children to respect these as well. Get the children to talk at home about school activities and any problems they may encounter there.”
Don’t you agree that these are fine suggestions? Are you as parents applying them? Part of your homework is to do so.
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Questions for Parental Self-Examination
1. Do I take a real interest in my children’s schooling?
2. Do I know their teachers?
3. Do the teachers know that I appreciate their efforts?
4. Do I make sure that my children take their schoolwork seriously?
5. Do I see to it that their homework is done properly and on time?
6. Is my attitude toward knowledge and learning a positive one?
7. Do my children see me study?
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Reading stirs children’s curiosity and imagination
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Parents who spend time reading to their children strengthen the family bond
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Family trips to a museum or to the country can be real family fun—and a learning experience
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Your youngsters need personal attention