Editor's note: This is part of a series of personal stories on resolutions that worked — or didn't — and the challenges along the way.
In 2012 my youngest daughter started kindergarten. With my older daughter in second grade, I knew we needed to figure out how to wrangle homework now that there would be two kids in school and I was working a new job. My older daughter is good about getting down to business with her work, and in the past we could get her to do homework whenever — on the weekend, a little bit in the evening, after activities or when we had a spare minute -- even in the car on the way somewhere. But my younger daughter is still figuring out what school is all about, and she's not always ready to follow directions.
My husband and I brainstormed and decided that we needed to set regular expectations for homework in order to help our kids form good habits and keep the family harmony. We wanted to make sure we maintained our kids' time for extracurricular activities, got their work done, preserved dinner and family time, saved some time for reading at night and also allowed me to finish out my work day after picking the kids up from school.
We came up with Homework Hour. Every day after school is Homework Hour. We come into the house, quickly get a good snack, and then the three of us — my daughters and I — sit down together at the dining table. We all pull out work. If they don't have homework, they read a book or a worksheet or occasionally do art. I finish up my own work and help them as needed. We sometimes have tea.
The girls are encouraged to stay focused and only ask for my help when they have read the directions and still don't understand something. My younger daughter, who sometimes get squirmy, has a special sticker chart. For every page of homework she completes without any nagging, she gets a sticker and works toward enough stickers to earn a new book -- her biggest motivator. If the girls are done with their work or have none, they practice violin.
The Homework Hour has worked very well for us. When I was a kid, I got sent to my bedroom to do my homework alone, and it always felt isolating and boring. I don't have good memories of homework as a kid, and I think I didn't form great habits. With my own kids, I want them to learn that work is important, just as play time is, and that although they need to motivate themselves to stick with their work, their mom and dad are right there whenever they need it.
Homework Hour still feels like family time, and it's a great feeling when we're all done with our work and can cut loose afterward.
In between school drop-offs and coffee binges, Natalie Singer-Velush is ParentMap’s Web Editor. In her former life she wrote for newspapers and once pumped milk in the bathroom of the King County Superior Courthouse while covering a murder trial. She was also once chased by rabid raccoons. Natalie lives in Seattle with her husband and two school-aged daughters, whom she is really trying very hard not to over-parent.