Your kid has a math test tomorrow. No sweat—you studied calculus your junior year of college. Yet, astonishingly, your 4th grader does not want your help. You’re not alone. For what it’s worth, you could have spent a decade working through fractions, and you’d still be faced with the same conundrum. Kids simply don’t want to accept help from their parents.
As a result, tutoring companies have biologists asking them to teach their kids basic science principals; published authors begging them to help their kids write their essays; and the most trusted child psychologists breathing sighs of relief when someone is finally able to help their kids get organized.
School is a time when kids get the opportunity to find their independence in their social lives, so why shouldn’t they do the same in their academic lives too? Better yet, why can’t they do both at the same time? That means getting homework out of the home and into a more collaborative work environment.
In an increasingly connected world, businesses have adapted to the times with open-concept offices (think WeWork) to inspire their employees to be more collaborative and creative. And it makes perfect sense. When every piece of information in the universe is immediately available at the touch of a button (or with the summons of Alexa and Siri), knowledge is not as important as the ability to think, reason and connect to others. If we intend to set the next generation up for success, we need to make homework a time when kids have more opportunities to interact, be inspired and frankly, have more fun.
Young students often feel liberated when they progress from one school to the next and realize they’re surrounded not only by older kids but a larger array of social study spaces available to them. Formerly frustrated students finally find their footing in dynamic study groups and bustling libraries, and they start to wonder why they didn’t have these options sooner.
Many parents pay premiums for private tutors to come to their homes, assuming they are meeting kids where they are inherently most comfortable—their own dining room tables. In actuality, the convenience of not having to leave the house would be immediately outweighed by the power to carve out space, autonomy, and control over the learning experience (it helps if you still let them wear their pajama pants).
It’s up to us to provide students with safe places to work and study and to design every nook and cranny of these spaces to encourage creativity and collaboration. After all, students are expected to spend more time studying as they move through the school system, at least an estimated ten additional minutes per grade level just on homework according to experts, so it’s important to instill good habits and help reduce stress from a young age.
And those stresses are no joke. When your child enters his or her teens, they begin to internalize the pressure to create the ideal college application package earlier and earlier. They spend every day in an intensely competitive school environment, over-scheduled from sunrise to sunset, and when they arrive home, parents (who only want the best for their kids) keep reminding them of what they already know—there’s so much to achieve and never enough hours in the day to get it all done.
At the end of the day, you are the person your child wants to impress the most, so it’s no wonder the pressure of performing perfectly at home can be overwhelming. So, don’t be offended the next time your kid gives you the cold shoulder when you ask to help him with his spelling assignment. Help your child find their own safe space to study with friends and trusted mentors. You’ll watch the confidence increase, and the battles at the dining room table will begin to melt away.