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Friday, July 22, 2016

Balancing the Demands of Homework

By Sanna Rogers    

Last year when Isaiah Cook was planning his ninth grade schedule, this self-starting A-student saw a way to get more out of school: Fit for Life, a condensed, performance-based physical education course given over the summer. Partnered with an online health class in the fall semester at Oldham County High School, this plan would allow him to squeeze in another class. Add to this track and cross-country practice five nights a week and an advanced placement class, and Isaiah was overloaded.

Was it worth it? Many families with ambitious students wonder the same thing.

Looking back, mom Sonya Cook said it all sounded great at the time. But from August through mid-October, Isaiah’s life was sleep, run, go to school, eat, and do homework. “There were days I didn’t know if we were going to survive the fall,” she says. “The jump in homework and time management from middle to high school has been huge.”

For many teens, the option of accelerated classes and tighter schedules is alluring. School had come naturally to Isaiah; now he struggled with two to three hours of homework each night and intense note-taking. He and Sonya talked to a school counselor about dropping a class so he could focus more on his most demanding classes, but Isaiah saw that many of his friends were facing the same obstacles and chose to continue. “I think part of it, too, is he didn’t want to look like he was failing by dropping a class,” Sonya says.

The solution? Sonya and David micromanaged his studying for a while to reduce procrastination and improve his comprehension. Sonya explained that Isaiah's normal pace of reading, note-taking, and processing info had to speed up because of the faster pace of his AP and advanced classes. Most importantly, his parents emphasized hard work over straight As.

For high-achieving student athletes such as Isaiah, his brother Aaron, 13, and his sister Adrah, 11, organization is crucial. Typically, Isaiah and Aaron (also a runner at Oldham County Middle School) don’t get home from weeknight track practice until 6pm. Then it’s dinner, about 30 minutes of downtime, and studying. Sixth-grader Adrah’s passion is dance; she attends classes twice a week until 8:30 and has the option to attend more classes if her homework load isn’t too heavy.

Isaiah, a night owl, now regularly retreats to his basement bedroom to study each night with the occasional check-in by Mom or Dad. Aaron and Adrah still prefer the kitchen table, where Sonya can be available but not intrusive. She tries to rotate after-dinner chores around homework schedules. “Often the kid who needs the least amount of study time will do the dishes,” she says.

Sonya says she established the importance of homework early on before the kids were involved in after-school activities. “I trained them up from kindergarten what the homework routine was, and it’s still held today,” she says. Isaiah wants to continue at the advanced level and keep taking AP courses, so his schedule includes a study hall, which helps him keep up.

After a year of emotional ups and downs, Isaiah is continuing the AP track. He’s even considering an online math class — and a study hall, of course — to make room for another elective. Sonya is determined to prepare Aaron and Adrah for the same transition so they can excel without burnout.

Is your child juggling the responsibilities of demanding classes and other extracurricular activities? How do you keep your child on the right track for success in academics?


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