Homework…it’s a word that can trigger a sense of dread even in those of us who haven’t had a spelling test to study for or math problems to work in so long, determining how many years would be a math problem in itself. Just the thought of having to sit down and revisit all the work of the day when you have finally gotten home is tough for students of all ages. But as has been said…what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.
Okay, homework might not be a child’s favorite pastime, but it doesn’t have to be the after school pariah that many of us remember. In fact, it can become a source of pride of accomplishment and a decompression period that helps to bring the events of the day and the subjects covered in school full circle. Planning and organization are key to helping kids develop good study skills that will make completing their homework less of a chore.
Where, when and how. Having a regular place and time for studying is important to establishing a routine. Let your child help to decide the details. Do they study better at a desk? Do they concentrate better in a room alone or with family nearby? Does some background music aid in their ability to keep on task or is it distracting? Should studying start immediately after your child arrives home, or will a few minutes of outdoors exercise help them be more ready to settle in and start to work? After discussing their likes and dislikes, choose a space that provides the most positives. Set the time and place and stick with it.
Supplies should be handy. Make sure all of the supplies your child will need to accomplish their assignments are at hand: paper, notebooks, pencils, erasers, a dictionary and other resource materials appropriate for their grade level. If your child’s homework requires work on a PC, make sure to monitor their time online to prevent their veering into inappropriate or unhealthy content. Don’t forget good lighting. The study center should have a good desk lamp. Shielded full-spectrum fluorescents may help your student be calmer, steadier, and less easily distracted.
Set goals. If your child has trouble staying on task, suggest that they break down their assignments into a “to do” list, so they can check them off as they are completed. Encourage them to tackle the hardest tasks first, when they are less fatigued. Once the difficult work is finished they can check them off the list and move on to the easier ones. Prioritizing work is a great lesson for life.
Break it up. Sitting in front of homework for long stretches of time can lead to loss of concentration, fatigue and frustration. Allowing a short break for some fresh air or snacks can help your child recharge and be ready to finish their work. Breaks should not involve TV, phone calls and texting, as they can disrupt the routine and make it difficult for your child to get back to work.
Check it out. Encourage your child to check his or her work. Careless errors might not sink the homework ship, but they can take their toll when it comes to tests and compositions. Learning to proof and correct their work will also serve your child well when he or she progresses to high school, college and into the workforce. Should you check your child’s work and have them make corrections? It depends on the teacher. Some teachers prefer that work is checked and corrected at home. Others want corrections to be made at school. Some teachers will send home assignment sheets that require a parent’s signature to show that you are aware the work was done. When in doubt, ask the teacher.
Circle the date. To help your child learn to schedule the time they will need for special projects, book reports and other long-term assignments, make sure they have a calendar prominently located in their study area. Encourage them to post all deadlines for tests and projects so they don’t fall through the cracks. Planning ahead and setting aside the time to work on special assignments will help to prevent last minute panic.
Grade your own deportment. When it comes to your interactions with your child about his or her homework, what does your mood, tone of voice and body language say about you? Are you gentle and firm? Nagging? Approachable? Hysterical? Your demeanor can set the tone for how your child will approach his work. An encouraging attitude helps set up a positive learning environment.