The power of potential


Homework is sabotaging my family!

For the past few months, my son has been drowning in homework! He’s in second grade. As you may know, you have dyslexia and ADHD. But his “disabilities” are not the problem. In fact, our specific interventions and his hard work have put him very close to “grade level.” Hates writing (the process of forming letters, not composition). Otherwise you are progressing very well.

Yet you are drowning in homework.

Last weekend, he had a three-day weekend. (In theory, anyway). We spend three hours a day on homework. By Sunday afternoon, I was getting out of my skin! I thought, “Wow! I’m supposed to help other parents AVOID this mess! What advice do I give others that I’m not taking for myself?”

I literally grabbed my “Homework Help for Parents.” CD and read the index. This is not the first time I have done this. Two years ago when my son was in kindergarten, I had to reorient myself with all the lessons that I learned over many years as a homework teacher and homework coach.

I am happy to say that I identified our problem areas and corrected the course. I rediscovered my “Night Before School Tool” and the “Chip Clip System”. Things started buzzing again.

Maybe it would work this time too. I went through the playlist on the CDs. I mentally went through each one on the list. “We’re doing that … and that … and that …” I thought.

“So what am I missing?” I thought. The guilt of the parents is something unpleasant for all of us, but this was more than the fault of the parents. Since this is what I do for a living, professional guilt set in. “Oh my gosh! Why would anyone trust me if I can’t help * myself * get out of this …”


We just have too much homework! Now it seems ridiculously obvious to me.

But, when emotions are in charge, especially Mama Bear Emotions, logic takes a backseat … by far! I was trying to be a responsible parent and teach / model / encourage the same level of responsibility in my son. In the midst of that, however, I missed the clear signs that we were well beyond age-appropriate homework levels.

I have been coaching parents and students through homework for over 15 years and have spoken with hundreds of parents about homework battles. I can usually fix any problem with the task, as long as the parent * really * wants to solve it. “Too much homework” is the most difficult problem to solve!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my son’s teachers. I will always be grateful for the way they hug it compassionately, but hold it with high expectations. He has a lot of respect for both of you and I don’t want to compromise that in any way.


I must tell you, when I was a classroom teacher, I had NO way of knowing if the workload was too much! I assigned what I * thought * was reasonable. Homework simply returned to school, complete and accurate.

One day while teaching third grade, I received a note from a frustrated mother. She wrote: “I help Bailey with her math homework every day, but she’s tearing her apart! She’s feeling overwhelmed and very upset …”

I had no idea!

In class, Bailey stood her ground. It did “pretty good” in testing. She didn’t know that “good enough” wasn’t good enough for her. She pushed herself to answer all the questions on the assignment perfectly. He didn’t understand that homework was “practical.” It was perfectly fine if he got some questions wrong. She could learn from mistakes.

So, I assured Bailey and her mom that I didn’t assign homework to make them miserable. If the task was causing tears, it was time for them to finish it. Bailey’s mom could write me a note and we’d work things out from there.

This experience made me realize that parents accept homework without any hesitation. In talking to all those frustrated parents, I know how reluctant they are to complain about homework. We don’t want to teach our children that they can “complain” to escape responsibility. We can wrestle and wrestle endlessly with our children for homework, but everything the teacher sees the next morning is a perfectly complete homework.

Inspired by Bailey, I created a platform for regular feedback on assignments. I added a cover sheet to my weekly assignments. The cover asked parents to rate their children’s understanding of each task, on a scale of 1 to 5. I also included a space for parents to write a short summary of the task each week. This feedback was incredibly valuable!


With Mama Bear Emotions running the show, I completely forgot about those homework lessons I learned in the classroom. There I was, fantasizing about banging my head against the kitchen counter because that seemed less painful than convincing my son to do another minute of homework.

I didn’t actually do it, but somehow, my senses snapped back into place. I finally realized that I was so engrossed in modeling “responsibility” that I forgot to model “boundaries.” I immediately stopped the night’s homework.

I then wrote a polite note to his teachers: “Please excuse Mark for not completing his homework. We spent nine hours on homework this weekend. Homework is now sabotaging our family. We need a break!”

I’m not sure how your teachers will respond, but I know … They are kind. They are compassionate. They are mothers. Most likely they had no idea how much was on our plate. I have no reason to believe that they will respond with anything other than kindness and support.


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