The “looming threat” of another year of homework assignments—and potential battles—may overshadow the anticipation of a new school year. But homework routines don’t have to be a painful process, if you and your kids discuss and set the ground rules and expectations early on. Involving your children encourages them to take ownership of their success, too.
With the plethora of distractions to pull a kid’s attention in a million directions once she’s home from school, is it any wonder that — especially after a long day of learning — the last thing she wants to do when she walks in the door is homework? Instead of letting your temper get the better of you, try these suggestions for helping your child tackle homework.
Set the stage
Your children’s ages may determine the best place for them to work. You can easily supervise younger kids when they’re in the kitchen or dining room as you’re prepping dinner. Older kids might prefer to work in their rooms or the den. Decide what works for everyone.
Fill a well-stocked station with typical school supplies. When your kids need a computer, keep it in a central location where you can oversee their work.
Some kids work well listening to music. Others prefer silence. Either works, but keep the homework zone free from other distractions including the television, video games and smartphones or tablets.
Create a routine
You and the kids should decide whether homework’s top priority immediately after school or dinner. Some children need 30 minutes to decompress with a snack. Others want to jump in and finish everything immediately. Your kids’ homework schedules might change depending on the day, if they’re involved in afterschool or evening activities. Just continue to reinforce that homework is a priority.
It’s never too soon to teach kids how to plan and strategize. Some kids tackle the hard stuff first. Others prefer to save it for last. Use a calendar to track long-term assignments and decide, with your kiddo, how to chunk projects so they’re not spending six hours working on it the night before it’s due.
Motivating reluctant students
Don’t nag! Creating a negative environment from the outset often backfires. Instead, cultivate a “We’re in this together” approach where you’re available to assist. Be positive. Buy into the assigned work and explain the value of each task.
Teach them to prioritize. Encourage older students with a heavier workload to take regular breaks. Set a timer for 15 – 20 minutes. It’s also never too early to teach your kids how to organize.
Link success to effort. It’s easy to cheer someone on with an “I know you can do it!” attitude, but if you remind her about that ‘A’ she earned after a week of practice, you’ll reinforce a very healthy message that effort and perseverance lead to success.
Know when to call the cavalry. If your child spends what you think is an exorbitant amount of time on homework, or is confused by an assignment, contact her teacher. You also might consider hiring a tutor. Both professionals are trained to handle multiple questions and explain the classwork.
Reaching the finish line
Sometimes, the best way to motivate a child to complete his or her homework is to offer a fun incentive. While some people may worry that offering rewards conditions children to do what’s required or requested only when there’s something in it for them, research disagrees. Using a reward system is not a bribe — and there are a variety of systems to try until you find one that works for your family.
When the weather’s nice, why not incorporate the outdoors into that reward, especially since your kiddo’s probably been sitting inside for most of the day, and studies show that outdoor time is critical to a young person’s development.
Take the whole family on a nature scavenger hunt or go bird watching. Pile onto the bikes and ride to the park to play. Or, if your kids love to learn, check out these fun outdoor learning activities.
Homework is meant to provide reinforcement and extra practice. Set a good example, too, by curling up to read or do your own paperwork during homework time.
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About the Author:
Emily Graham is the creator of mightymoms.net. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.