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Of all the tasks I do as a teacher, checking homework is my least favorite. I've heard so many excuses over the past 16 years. "I was watching TV," "I didn't do it because I'm lazy," or "I don't care" are the ones that frustrate me the most. I wonder what standards their parents set in the home.

As a divorced mom, I know from experience that encouraging children to do their homework can be difficult. Yet parents who take a daily interest in their children's progress will help them develop the good work habits children need to reach their potential.

Not all parents see the connection between doing homework and academic success. Meeting goals daily helps students to understand and master material required for that school year.

Students who consistently fail to do their homework may have to repeat the entire year. Worse, they acquire the bad habit of not giving their best effort.

By expecting children to fulfill their commitments, parents can teach children to keep their word and persevere at difficult tasks. To do any less does our children a great disservice.

When mom and dad make homework a priority, children also learn that work takes priority over leisure. These good habits develop character that will enable our children to become valuable members of society.

Unfortunately, some parents have thrown up their hands in despair, arguing, "My children refuse to do homework." This causes two problems. First, by allowing children to persist in being irresponsible, parents send the message that not doing what is expected will be tolerated. A child who refuses to cooperate and be obedient at home will most certainly be uncooperative and disobedient at school. A child who has not been taught to respect his parents will not respect teachers or any other authority figure. The end result is a student who is virtually unteachable.

Failure to accept responsibility has serious and sometimes far-reaching consequences. Those who succeed in school and later in the work force are those who go beyond the call of duty and do more than what is expected. In most cases, employees who do less than what their employer demands will eventually be fired and replaced by someone who values hard work.

Second, parents who give up on getting their children to do their homework have in effect given up their own authority. The child who refuses to submit to family rules regarding homework has basically said, "I'm not going to listen to you. I don't have to do what you say. Rules don't apply to me." This child grows into an adult who has little or no respect for laws or those who enforce them. An entire generation of such individuals will most certainly result in a society in moral and social decline.

Homework may not seem like such a serious issue, but teachers and parents must recognize that we are not only teaching our children reading, writing and arithmetic. We are teaching them how to live. Day by day, we are building lives that will bring joy and success or sorrow and failure.

So the next time your children balk at doing their homework, make them sit at the kitchen table until it's finished. You'll be making a deposit in their character that will pay back great dividends throughout their lives.

LAURA HERVEY lives in Akron.

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