School Stories #10 – How I got my son to do his homework without nagging

I have been struggling to get #5 to do his homework on time. To be fair, he has come a long way from P1 where he would just dump his school bag at the entrance and promptly forget about it until the next morning when it’s time to pick it up again for school.

This year in P3, he has finally ‘woken up’ and will remember that he has homework. However, for the past 2 weeks, his homework has been getting progressively more difficult and he has been dragging it later and later and by bedtime, he would be rushing to get it finished.

These were the instructions I used to bark at him:

  • Quickly finish your homework.
  • Stop playing and do your homework now!
  • No going to the playground until all your homework is done.

The usual scenario was that he would start on his homework but get distracted by the going-ons around him – Kate playing with her toys, grandparents or cousins dropping by, or anything interesting the other kids are doing.

I was getting frustrated at having to nag at him every single day and was “complaining” to my ex-neighbours at breakfast. They have boys who are older than mine and immediately, they could see where my problem was.

  1. Instructions not specific enough
  2. Boundary too wide
  3. Rule not enforced
They explained that even though he was not allowed to go to the playground, he could still entertain himself with so much at home. They advised me to narrow the boundary. This is how they handle their sons.

  • Back from school
  • Lunch
  • Rest 15 minutes
  • Sit at the study table until all homework and “mummy’s work” is done.
  • Only allowance is to go to the toilet
  • If they take their own sweet time and it stretches on till dinner time, so be it. Dinner will be served at their study table.

When #5 came back, I was brimming with excitement to try it out on him. I was a mummy on a mission.

After his lunch, I told him in a  firm tone.

No moving from this square until all homework is completed (I used my finger to draw an imaginary boundary).”

I allow him to do his homework in the living room because at least I can keep an eye on him while watching over Kate and heating up lunch/chatting with the older girls when they trickle home. If I let him go up to his own room, he will most likely end up playing with his toys. No, make that definitely.

You know what? I couldn’t believe it. It worked like magic!

He sat there for 2 hours doing his homework. He got tired of sitting on the chair and moved down to the floor. Kate came downstairs after her nap and as usual, he immediately went and played with her. I decided that a 15 minute break was in order and told him so. After that, he went back into his “square” for another hour until all his homework was finished.

Just a change in instructions was all I needed! My, my, if only I had known that earlier.

I have been staying at home for the past week to enforce my boundary and rule (at least for a period of time until he is able to get into the routine and gradually require less supervision). Previously, I gave him instructions but I would either be upstairs or out of the house. And of course, when the cat is out, the mouse does nothing but play.

Now, I sit at the dining table and keep a hawk’s eye on him. Thank goodness for laptops. I’ll probably have more time to blog now 😉

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

~ –  a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School Stories #8: Paying tutors $250 an hour to do assignments?

This article came out in yesterday’s “The New Paper”. It reported that:

“Some parents are paying up to $250 an hour for a tutor to come over to their homes. It is not for tuition lessons. Instead, it is for the tutors to do their children’s homework. For these parents, it is something that cannot be helped, they say. Their children are inundated with so much tuition, co-curricular activities and school assignments that they are struggling to cope.”

The reporter who contacted such a tuition teacher goes on to say, “If the assignments are more complex and require research, he ups the price to between $500 and $750 an hour.”


Photo: The New Paper
I do agree with the parents that in some instances, the children have insufficient time to fit in tuition, CCAs, homework and projects and still get an adequate amount of sleep. This happened to #1 during her PSLE year. She had a copious amount of homework and even though she was an efficient worker, she ended up going to bed very late.

I told her it was important that she had proper rest and to leave her homework half completed. I wrote a note to her English teacher and explained my reasons for allowing her to do that, and that I would take responsibility for it. #1 got really stressed and told me that her teacher was very fierce and would scold the students until they cried. She refused to go to bed and in the end, I had to help her finish some of her homework.

I still remember what it was. She had to look through the dictionary and write out the meanings of the words. She picked that out for me to do because she said that her teacher does not mark it, but they had to show that it was done. Everyday they were given about 5 pages of that, on top of variables like comprehension, composition and grammar cloze. In addition, they were required to watch the News which they would be quizzed on the next day. And that was just for English.

I think for starters, what needs to be looked at are 3 simple areas to ease the homework crunch on our kids:

  1. Better coordination between subject teachers. (Some schools have a simple but excellent system whereby the daily homework is written on the board, so that all teachers for that class will be able to see how much homework has already been given out.)
  2. Students should learn to have better time management and to work more efficiently. (This is where I can see a huge variation between the kids. Some will whip out their homework between a change of lessons, and are able to do their homework very quickly. Other kids take a long time to eat their lunch, shower, and get easily distracted while doing their homework.)
  3. Something has to be done with our nation’s over-reliance on tuition. The time spent on travelling and attending extra tuition is significant, which leaves the child with insufficient time to complete school homework.

This article gives us much food for thought. Where do we draw the line between telling children that they have to finish their homework themselves, and assisting them when the amount of homework given is unrealistic? I know of many parents who get the older siblings to help out, or the parents themselves will do parts of their children’s projects.

What message are we sending our young about what is important? That only homework which would affect their academic grades are worth doing? In the article, a parent mentioned that she hired a tutor to complete superfluous assignments such as “a project on volunteerism where the students had to dissect the pros and cons of being a volunteer.”

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School Stories #6: My son. There’s hope yet!

This year, I was very surprised that #5 has suddenly ‘grown up’ and is taking his school work more seriously. In P1 and P2, it was obvious that school only meant one thing to him. And it spells R-E-C-E-S-S.

He was oblivious to everything that went on in class and whatever his teachers said went in one ear and out the other. His homework was hardly handed up on time, his worksheets were perennially missing, and he did not seem to know what was going on in class.

Learning to write cursive

Now that he is in P3, he has finally ‘woken up’ and I was delighted to see that he took out his books and did his homework and corrections without prompting from me. Last year he seemed to have selective memory and what he didn’t like or found hard to do (which was pretty much all his Chinese homework) he preferred to stuff right at the bottom of his bag and hoped that it would magically disappear through an imaginary abyss.

On Sunday, when I reminded him to keep his completed homework in his schoolbag, he said, “Oh ya, and I have to revise. My tests are coming up next week.” My girls and I stared at one another in disbelief. Did we hear right? (I must congratulate his teachers on doing such a good job.)

Then he turns around and continues playing. Ah well. The first step is awareness, no?

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#4 – Things teachers say
#5 – Lessons learnt from #1’s ‘O’s

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~