by Natelle Austin

One typical process many teachers follow as they teach is called, “gradual release of responsibility.”  It describes how we teach and model a new skill, provide supported practice, and eventually expect the student to demonstrate the skill independently.   Many refer to it as, “I do; we do; you do.”

This teaching process applies to much of what we do as parents. The capable parent can teach, model, practice alongside, and release a child to perform skills and chores around the home.  On the other hand, many parents have difficulty releasing a child to practice age-appropriate tasks independently.

The gradual release of responsibility is particularly crucial in developing the soft skills necessary for homework completion.  While young students may need a parent sitting encouragingly alongside their child, older students probably do not. By about fourth grade, students may need an adult to do a quick demonstration of a math problem with a brief period where you work together.  However, the student will begin spending a higher percentage of their homework time working independently without nagging or a supervising adult to make sure they stay on task.

The soft skills needed to complete homework successfully such as perseverance, time management, and willingness to work hard are invaluable but take time to build.  In early years, building homework stamina is as necessary as practicing the homework skills.

How can we help our children develop these skills? First, we can model many of the skills necessary for this character development by telling stories about how we learned to be self-motivated and resourceful in completing tasks independently.  Second, we can discuss the importance of tenacity and a strong work ethic. Third, we can encourage our children to persist when homework is challenging or taking too much time.

You might recognize many of these traits as familiar to many biblical characters. We have the examples of Noah who persevered at building an ark for decades, Jacob who faithfully served a devious uncle for years, and Joseph whose resilience and endurance resulted in fulfillment of God’s promise.  There can be no doubt that these soft skills not only develop a strong work ethic, but also the more enduring character God seeks to promote in our lives.