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Better, Not Bitter: Parenting After Divorce – I HATE Homework!

Pic-Fall-School-Bus-GEM-300x197Better, Not Bitter:
Parenting After Divorce- I HATE Homework!

For the past 18 years in our house the arrival of fall has meant a new school year begins. For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed my sons’ school experiences. This is my fourth year managing the household alone, as a divorced mom. Now the oldest is away at college and it’s just the 15-year-old high school sophomore and me.

One aspect of school that has become a major challenge is HOMEWORK.

I hated homework when I was in school. But I did it. I think homework is busy work and fairly worthless. But my opinion doesn’t really matter in this debate. I have no power or control because my son has to do it or suffer through another year of inconsistent, sometimes mediocre grades. Second semester last year was brutal. I am sick of this smart kid getting a bunch of zeros in the homework column, so I have to do something about it.

Related: Be A Hero, A She-ro Or A Zero

Like many boys, as an elementary school student my 15-year-old loved school and took great pride in making his teachers, his dad and I proud of his scholastic accomplishments. But today, all he cares about are his friends and sports. Now don’t get it twisted, he still loves school. You see it’s quite a clever institution, incorporating both his primary interests – friends and sports. However, it’s my job as custodial parent to make sure he is getting the most out of school. I don’t want to see him disappointed in a few years when the students who worked hard are getting acceptance letters to their desired colleges and he is not.

As an African American mom, I also have to be honest and state the whole ‘achievement gap’ issue is swirling around in my mind. I don’t want him to be a statistic.

I am not a helicopter-style parent. I understand that it is really my son’s responsibility to buckle down and get the work done. But prodding and punishment didn’t work last year. So it’s my job to incorporate a system in our household to make this decision more of a ‘no-brainer’ for him.

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Pertson looing in a book at public library

I’ve gone old-school on him. I decided that Mondays, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings we will sit together for an hour to an hour and half. Sometimes we make it to the public library, where I write or read while he studies.  No, he doesn’t like it. But it helps to ensure that he spends time hitting the books. If we can’t make it to the library, we do this in our dining room at home.

(Please note that when I initially informed him of my plan he outright refused to participate. But I have that ace-the-hole called control over when he gets his learner’s permit. Fail to cooperate and no permit for you. 🙂

I also try really hard to involve his dad in homework and what’s happening at school. It’s not easy because he doesn’t live really close by, but we’ve found a way to have him do at least a couple of the study sessions each month. He’ll bring take-out dinner to the house where our son and they’ll eat and then our son will do homework while his dad reads or just hangs out close by, available to answer questions and assist.

It helps our son understand that his success is important to both of us. He knows although we are not married anymore, we will work together for him. And no, this part is not easy for me. I really don’t want my ex hanging out at my house. But it’s important to our son’s future. His dad needs to be a part of the solution.

I know it’s insane that we have to sit with a person who is almost an adult to make him do his work. But I don’t know what else to do. When I leave him alone to study somehow it doesn’t get finished. Still, I refuse to allow him to accept average performance when he’s truly an above average guy. So we sit.

Read more: Managing Back to School for the Blended Family



back to school

I reach out to our son’s teachers early in the school year to introduce myself via email and cc: his dad on the emails. I attend Back-to-School Night and let teachers, counselors and coaches know I am open to their feedback regarding our son’s progress and ask what his dad and I can do to help. I attend school functions and make sure people know I’m his mom and volunteer at least twice during the year. I encourage his dad to stay informed and make sure he attends all the important events. As far as school is concerned, I want us to continue to be seen as a united front, no matter what it takes.

All that stuff hasn’t helped with consistently good homework performance so in an effort to ramp up homework performance, I recently engaged the school athletic director to help me. During football season the players have to have a form signed by their teachers each Friday confirming their class participation and grades for the week. Like many boys, our son LOVES playing football and for the most part he does his work during the season.

Read more: Learning to Let My Boy Become a Man


you can do it

Last school year it felt like I was always fussing about homework all the time. This year I have begun to end our study sessions with something encouraging said between us. Sometimes I ask if he’ll pray with me. Other days the words between us are a little too tense for that and I just tell him how proud I am of him or discuss my hopes for him having a great day tomorrow.

I realize I have to step out of the Mommy Homework Gestapo role when it’s all done and just be the person that loves him most. And I have to let him know that every day.

It goes without saying that life with teenagers can be difficult. Very often in single parent households, it sometimes feels impossible. The added pressure of school responsibilities can make life a lot more volatile. On top of that, I know you probably don’t want to interact with your ex any more than you have to. To make things worse, you may have push to get them involved in this aspect of your child’s life. It just seems easier to try to do it all yourself.

Read more: Our Story Begins: Hannah And The Homework Hassle


I learned a lot of this info from listening to wise and happy divorced women who successfully raised teenagers, particularly young men. I see their young adults excelling, thriving, doing great things and I want the same for my children. So I am trying to do the work.

Do you have strategies to share for those of us dealing with teenagers and homework issues? I would LOVE to hear, please share!

Wilma Jones

Wilma Jones lives in Arlington, VA with her teenage son. Her oldest son who is a senior in a nearby college, stops by with laundry and an empty stomach a few times a month. She is divorced after 19 years of marriage. Wilma is a speaker and the author of Living Happier After: 20 Women Talk About Life After Divorce.


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