Children are back to school. It’s time for a new routine. Temptation is strong to push for children to get their homework done as soon as they walk in the door. However, we know that children need to relax for a bit before they begin again. They can concentrate better on their homework if they are permitted some time to chat about their day. It’s like a coffee break for kids.
Here are some tips to make homework time better and more productive:
- Relax, refuel and connect. Take the time to sit with your child when you first get home. Let them help you prepare dinner. Talk about the day’s happenings at school. Ask about their friends. Ask about stories the teacher might have told. Get some context and be uncritical about what you hear. Recognize that your child may need to vent a bit about what was frustrating. After a relaxing dinner or healthy snack, your child is much more ready to focus on academics.
- Create a place in the house for homework. Put a basket of supplies like pencils, crayons, scissors and paper in this special homework place. Talk about it in advance.
- Leave the television off even for yourself. Many children enjoy listening to their favorite music while working, but try to keep visual distractions to a minimum.
- Help your child review the homework list and help prioritize the work. Then share strategies for how to tackle each assignment. Oftentimes, the hardest part is ordering the work. Do you begin with the easiest thing first, finish it quickly and then move on to the more time consuming work? Do you tackle the items that require more thinking first at a time when you are least tired? Teaching these strategies based on what you know about your child is the best sort of homework help you can provide. You are teaching your child to be an independent problem solver, one who can eventually accomplish life tasks solo with confidence.
- Above all, resist the temptation to provide the answers. If your child is stuck and can’t figure out how to do a math problem, help her get unstuck but don’t do the work for her. Ask questions. What do you think this means? What did the teacher do when she solved the problem on the board today? What kind of drawing could you make to help you visualize the problem? How could you break down the steps into smaller pieces? Where in the book can you look to read how to do it? Give hints if necessary but don’t give the answer. It’s like teaching your child to tie their own shoes. You help just a little bit but you let them try it themselves until they get it.
If your child is not used to doing homework without assistance, it may take a bit of time and work at first to coach him through the strategies he needs to work independently, solve problems and find solutions. In the long run, the work will be worth it. Your child will develop increasing self-confidence and begin to feel satisfied that he is able to accomplish this work on his own.
Don’t forget the celebration. After the homework is done, allow a fun activity that serves as a reward for a job well done. Now may be the time to turn on the TV. Or a video game may be in order. It’s important for your child to know that deferring what we really want to do until after we complete what we have to do is a successful life strategy.
About the Author: Rosemary Burton, Ph.D., has over 30 years of experience developing training, curriculum and standards in early childhood education. Dr. Burton is Vice President of Accreditation and Industry Relations for Minnieland Academy, which provides quality education and childcare at 60 locations in Northern Virginia. Learn more at www.minnieland.com.