Homework is an important component to a child’s educational experience. To help families make the most of homework time, consider these tips.
1.Time it right. To find the best time to do homework, consider your schedule and your child’s temperament and personality. Some kids need a break when they get home. Others lose steam if they don’t do their assignments right away. Try doing homework at different times to see where you have the greatest success. Then create a consistent routine based on what works best for your child.
2. Create space. Children need an undistracted desk-like area for doing homework. And for some that may not be a bedroom where familiar toys could divert their attention or a kitchen table situated around household hubbub. Find a consistent place away from distractions but still central to a parent so the child can be monitored if he has questions or needs help staying on task.
3. Tuned in or turned off? Some children enjoy listening to music while studying, but parents need to consider their child’s learning style and the type of media he or she is tuning into. While some do better with a little background noise, the majority of children need quiet. If your child insists on having something on, choose unfamiliar songs without words such as soothing, classical music.
4. Aid and ally. Parents should be there to lend support and provide guidance when needed. Read together, help with directions and check out the first few problems to make sure your child understands the concepts. Then let your child work independently while being available for questions. If you see many mistakes, encourage your child to make corrections. But don’t fix it for him or her. Teachers would prefer the work come back wrong rather than having parent make needed corrections. If the work is replete with errors, let it go and send a note to the teacher saying your child didn’t understand the work. Another thing that may help is a homework buddy.
5. Rapid review. Reviewing previous lessons is beneficial in refreshing a student’s memory, particularly with subjects like math where one concept builds upon another. Look at a couple of past lessons and have your child briefly explain the concepts to you. But keep it short so he’s still alert for the current day’s assignment.
6. Tarry and toil. If your child is working for an extended period of time, consider the cause. Is her or she tired? Unfocused? Doddling? Not understanding the material? If they are procrastinating, set a timer or offer an incentive for completing the assignment on time. If, however, your child is diligent and still not finishing in a reasonable amount of time, have her stop. Then let the teacher know how long she worked.
7. Pay attention to patterns. If you find your child frequently saying he or she doesn’t understand the work, it may be a clue he needs extra school support or a tutor. Likewise, if your child effortlessly whips through the assignments day after day it may be an indication there is not enough challenge. Homework isn’t supposed to be overly difficult, but students should have to put some time and thought into it.
8. Relegate responsibility. Encourage your child to take on the responsibility of starting and finishing homework by creating a system such as a check-off list. When he or she starts to receive long-term projects, help them map out the work by using a calendar so she learns good time management and organizational skills. Break down large projects into the smallest components of what needs to be done each day.
9. Scope out sick days. If your child is going to be out for more than a few days, contact the teacher. If he or she has to stay home due to a minor illness, the teacher may want to send a few things your way. But if your child is truly sick and needs to rest, the teacher will probably suggest letting him recover and catching him up on the work when he returns.
10. Constantly communicate. Find out early on the best way to contact your child’s teacher. Then if an issue arises, don’t wait to discuss it. Small problems can escalate if not addressed right away. Even if things are going well, touch base to make sure you’re both pleased with your child’s progress.
Denise Yearian is a former educator and editor of two parenting magazines, a mother and grandmother.