Divide and Conquer – Homework Struggles

When I was growing up, my parents took a “divide and conquer” approach to helping me with homework. Mom helped with English and History, Dad helped with Math and Science. This worked rather well for a while, but eventually Mom didn’t know how to write a literary analysis and Dad didn’t understand “the new way” we were solving Algebra equations. Sure, there was a part of me that was happy to further avoid my parents and any additional interaction, but this also meant I spent many nights overwhelmed, stressed, and utterly defeated by homework because my parents were unable to provide any assistance or guidance. So, if I wasn’t crying tears of exasperation, I simply quit.

When I reflect on this, there are several details that indicate my experience was far from many of my friends and peers. The truth is, for many American families, this is not even remotely close to reality. I had two parents (both college-educated) with traditional work schedules, meaning they were both home on evenings and weekends. However, many parents and guardians must work multiple jobs to support their families. Working two or three jobs (perhaps even more), hours and scheduling is often inconsistent or requires late night shifts. Consequently, many children spend the evenings navigating schoolwork alone. Even if a parent/guardian manages to muster the energy to help with schoolwork after a long day working multiple jobs, they must also have adequate education and skills to provide assistance (again, something that many families simply don’t have).

The takeaway here is this: Although my parents were physically home, and theoretically capable of helping me with my homework, I still struggled. For kids without such advantages, I can only imagine their frustration. Of course, family circumstances and situations vary greatly, but–particularly in regards to socially/economically disadvantaged families–homework time is yet another source of anxiety, yet another obstacle to overcome. But as they say (now, more than ever), it takes a village. And fortunately, this village is ready to help ease this burden on families. Northmen Den Youth Services has committed to an after-school free tutoring program to provide tutoring one-to-one, face to face in a safe, positive, encouraging environment for high to mid-risk students.

The big “why for this program” is to say, “We see you. We know it’s hard. Let’s work together. We can help.” Instead of parents trying to do it alone, this time there is a partner for parents to reach out to so we can “divide and conquer.” For students who usually feel marginalized, forgotten, and alone, it is truly inspiring for them to know there are other members of the community who are committed to their education. The goal here isn’t straight A’s (although that is certainly something to celebrate). The goal is encouragement and an outward demonstration of love, a way to show kids they are backed by a community.

When adolescents feel supported, they are inspired; They feel empowered. Our Spark Tutoring opportunity show students that not only their parents/guardians but also their community believes in them, that they both want them to be successful, and that they are sincerely capable of doing great things! Tutoring further establishes the idea that just because someone struggles with math or reading (or any other academic skill) doesn’t mean they are dumb or incapable. It also communicates the beautiful truth that hard work and dedication are the true indicators of success, not making the honor roll (Yes, this is a controversial opinion, especially coming from a teacher, but I stand by it!).

TOGETHER we can work to instill a sense of determination and perseverance in our youth that extends far beyond the classroom. Imagine the possibilities of a world full of Overcomers, supported by those who believe in their dreams and care about their future… oh, what a beautiful future that will be.

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