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As an elementary school student, I loved school. I loved to please my teachers. I felt great pride and accomplishment in good grades and high scores. Now as a mom to two elementary school-age children, I am seeing school in a whole new light.

I dread the end of the day when my kids come home and dump out the contents of their backpacks. Papers, notes and assignments fly everywhere. I have two other children, and as soon as the homework assignments are laid about, the baby starts chewing on them and the toddler starts coloring on them...

Help!

The kids are simply not interested or motivated to complete their assignments. I want to help and offer my support. But it really does get old sitting there night after night working on a list of spelling words, math sheets, sight words, book reports, grammar, cursive lettering... and that's if they don't have make-up work from the day!

One child is a little easier to focus, and he will usually get most of it done on his own, but my oldest wants me right there at his side. At this point, dinner is burning, the baby's crying and my toddler has had an accident. I'm ready to pull out my hair.

"Just finish your work!"

A few things have seemed to help. I try to focus on the joy of them being home. Give hugs and praise. Let the homework thing wait. I let them get a snack, take a break. But there is a set time when homework will begin. Also, I try to cut down on the multitasking. I just accept the fact that nothing else will be accomplished during this homework time. I have to be focused on the homework, just like my kids.

Since my boys do not seem motivated by the simple pleasure of completing their work and doing their best, I have to throw in a bribe. My mom says they are "dangle the carrot" kids. So privileges like bikes, friends, video games, etc., are rewarded to those who finish their work. It all works, sometimes. Other days not so much.

I am so tempted sometimes to just take the easy way out and skip the fight. But I am a people-pleaser, especially an authority-pleaser. So there's no way I would dare be so irresponsible. What if the teacher got mad at me? What if I get a bad grade? Oh, wait, it's their homework, not mine!

As a mom, it can be a challenge to find a balance for your family. When is keeping the peace more important than doing all 32 math problems? When is spending time laughing and blowing bubbles in chocolate milk more important than learning to spell the word "pickle."

I guess handling homework havoc is one of those art forms that takes time and experience to master.

Jessica Wilson has done the wife thing for 10 years, the mom thing for 9, the teacher thing for 14 and the crazy thing for 30! Find her at [email protected].