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How can I save my child from a homework-filled youth?
Here’s a full-service plan of action, starting with a 180-degree reorientation on your basic premise. Good parenting during your kids’ adolescence isn’t about prolonging childhood. It’s about inspiring your kids to figure out the essential life-hack skills that will enable them to be effective adults in realms that we parents can’t even imagine. There’s no better place to get started on such mastery than in dealing with a seemingly unbearable stack of homework. So, here we go.
Mountains Of Reading? Learn To Skim Effectively
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when the dad in the Atlantic magazine article said it took him 30 minutes to read 16 pages of Angela’s Ashes — when the task for the night was to read 79 pages. Dude! It’s a fine book, but it’s not Wittgenstein. Skim it! Read the first couple paragraphs of each chapter and then glide your eyes to the end and read the concluding paragraph closely. Do the same for the next couple chapters. Circle one anecdote or quote that you’d be prepared to discuss in class or cite in a paper. You should be in and out of your 79 pages in about 20 minutes. Take 2 minutes at the end to summarize what you remember.
Are you missing a bit at the edges? Sure. Can you participate in class discussion anyway? Yeah. Is this representative of prepping for every business meeting you’ll be in as an adult? You bet. Learn this hack now! It is essential.
Monotonous Math? Find Your Own Efficiencies!
Again, the Atlantic dad has a weepy story about one daughter having to calculate distances between Sacramento and 49 other state capitals. Such projects holler for more, um, creative approaches. I’m staying mum on the delicate question of whether today’s teens should crib such answers from Google — or split up rote projects with some buddies so that everyone does a slice and the answers are shared. But I’m not denouncing it either. And guess what? Finding such short cuts is a hugely vital life hack.
Bear in mind that when Mark Zuckerberg was at Harvard, he jump-started Facebook in part as a way that students could share info for an art history test. Do you want your child to find Zuckerberg-style shortcuts? Or are you trapped in a belief that teens should follow instructions to the letter?
If maverick habits are going to take hold, now is the time. What’s more, the fact that teachers will call foul on brazen maneuvers and label them “cheating” is a very excellent constraint. It requires your kids to be quiet and judicious about their shortcuts. And that is a vital part of life-hacking.
Institutional Stuffiness? Go Off-Site Early And Often.
I’m actually a big fan of public schools, once you form a realistic view of what they can and can’t do. If your child wants to get good at Spanish, there’s only so much that can happen by staring at a textbook. But there are great online buddy programs where students can vocalize newly learned verbs with someone in a Spanish-speaking country. Such oral practice beats textbook drills in language learning every time.
Similarly, if you want your kids to get in the habit of stretching their own brains, toss in dollops of home schooling as often as you can. A game-changer for our kids was a series of courtroom visits, watching felons get sentenced one day, and sitting in on witness cross-examination in Apple v. Samsung another day. Our guys still talk about the judgment calls and legal tactics they saw on those occasions. Those excursions have triggered many further explorations on their own, in the areas of argument, reasoning, psychology, etc.
Think about the apparent homework overload of teenagers’ life as a chance to develop life hacks. Once you do that, your own stress levels go down a lot. What’s more, your kids’ ability to prosper in college and beyond will soar.
George Anders is a writer whose work has been published by Forbes and Green Car Reports. Read more from Quora here:
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