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Getting Homework Started in Parent Child Interactions: The First Mention

Leah Wingard

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 42


This paper analyzes "the first mention" of homework by both parents and children on weekday afternoons after the parent and child meet one another after school and work. The paper shows that it is most often the parent that mentions homework first, in fact parents often mention homework directly after greeting the child after school. I show in the analysis that simply by initiating talk about homework even in the form of an inquiry, this first mention allows the parents to launch a sequence in which the doing of homework or planning when homework will be done becomes a relevant next. The analysis further shows that if children mention homework first, they do so in the context of telling the parent that their homework is complete or in order to announce that they don't have any homework. The data and analysis suggests that homework is a large organizer of family time and that the doing and planning of homework is often a mediator of parent child interaction. This work is contextualized in the current educational policy of parental monitoring of children's homework. Parental monitoring of homework is part of the dominant paradigm for family school relations in the US. That is both schools and teachers expect parents to check their children's homework assignments and make sure that children are completing homework on a daily basis.

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