If book bags and study packets make you cringe. And math facts and science projects turn your stomach into knots, you’re not alone
Getting youngsters to do their homework is an ongoing battle in many a household. Beth Hoffman, a Rio Salado College instructor and veteran of the homework battle, knows. She’s experienced both sides of the war including 14 years as a classroom teacher and as the parent of two elementary school age boys.
“The homework tug-a-war can really get your blood pressure boiling. Even as an educator, homework and how best to manage the process in our busy world, is a constant struggle,” said Hoffman who teaches teachers how to teach at Rio Salado College.
Most evenings Hoffman and her two young sons spend a couple of hours hunched over the kitchen table doing homework. But Hoffman says those who value education realize homework plays a significant role in education.
“Homework reinforces subjects learned in the school day. It’s also a great time to get to know your child’s learning style, and keep abreast of the classroom curriculum. Below are some strategies for taking the stress out of homework and make it a positive experience for both parents and students alike.
1. Know your child. What works for one doesn’t always work for the other(s). Some kids need a break after school, some need a break and a snack, and others just want to get it done so they can have the rest of the day to themselves. Some kids need homework broken up into smaller sessions, with a break between each session. This will take more monitoring on your part, but worth it, if it works.
2. Keep a constant routine. Children like to know what’s coming next, and what the expectation is for the task. By keeping a constant routine you will rid yourself of the never ending questions, and mixed messages that can rear their ugly heads. However, you may need to be flexible, not everyday is the same.
3. Quiet, quiet, quiet! Ask yourself how hard it would be to create a quality resume, in 30 min. to an hour, with the TV on. Same thing for kids. Distractions can lead to a 2 -3 hour homework session that should only take 30 min. Let them know that as soon as they are done, the TV may be turned on. It’s okay to hang out the “carrot” as long as you follow through.
4. Keep materials ready and available in a designated space. Keeping the backpack near the child also helps, so they don’t have the excuse to run downstairs to get something.
5. Be proactive and CHECK the back pack before starting homework. Make sure your child and you are on the same page and the child has a clear expectation of what needs to get done. This keeps frustration from peaking when they realize they did the wrong Math page.
6. Timed or not timed?? This depends on whether you have the “procrastinator” or you have the “Little Engine that could”. (God bless you if you have the “procrastinator”.) If you use a timer, make sure to make it an incentive, not a punishment. The punishment is already built in. If you don’t get your homework done, you have less time to do what you’d really like to do. (i.e.… “I’m sorry you didn’t have time to play Wii today. I know you’re frustrated about that. Maybe tomorrow, you’ll have more time, after you finish your homework.”) If the child finishes the homework before the timer has gone off, provide a meaningful reinforcement (extra 10 min. to stay up past bed time, get to watch a favorite TV program, ride bikes, etc…) that creates a “buy-in” to homework.
7. Develop habits, early. Is kindergarten too early?? Absolutely not! Do this with your first child, and each additional child will understand the expectations from the get go.
8. Should I help? Yes! Just be careful that your helpfulness doesn’t create an unhealthy dependence on you. The ultimate goal is to encourage initiative and responsibility. Ask questions that promote thinking. You might model one problem and have the child do the next. Check your child’s homework AFTER they have checked it. Make “checking” a habit. This is an important skill that often times needs to be directly taught.