Homework and Parents
Who dreads homework? Surprisingly enough, parents often dread the responsibility of homework even more than their children and the length of homework assignments is increasing. U.S. News & World Report (May 2000) writes that children ages 6 to 8 years went from receiving an average of 44 minutes of homework in 1981 to an average of 120 minutes in 1997. With busy family lives, how can we finish homework, squeeze in dinner and still have time for fun activities like soccer or gymnastics? How are we going to encourage our children to complete their assignments without constant nagging and coercing? What if we don’t know the subject matter well enough to help and guide our children? Not many of us remember the isosceles triangle and the Pythagorean theorem.
The Value of Homework
Despite the debate over homework and “how much is too much," school and homework go hand in hand. Developing good study habits in the early years is gives your child an educational advantage. Homework helps the child learn to work independently, develop good study skills, manage their time, organize their workspace and reinforce the skills learned in school. According to the Office of Educational Resource and Improvement, the difference in test scores and grades between students who do more homework and those who do less increases as children move up through the grades.
Guiding Your Child to Homework Success
Helping your child develop good homework habits is like teaching them to brush their teeth or go to bed on time: it takes a structured routine, consistency and patience, three things we busy parents have little of. Here are some tips on how to make homework a priority and still have time to kick around the soccer ball:
Know the teacher’s homework policies and expectations. You may have to call the school at the beginning of the year to learn their expectations. Some schools have online programs or voicemail systems that allow parents to review new assignments daily. Your child should know their assignments as well.
Make homework a priority in your home. Tell your child how important it is to complete each assignment and show your child your support by being physically near your child while he is working. You can finish your own work, clean the kitchen or fold the laundry. Be available for questions, but try not to give the answers or do the work yourself. Check over the completed homework and sign it. Since homework is “something they just have to do,” offer words of encouragement and praise, but resist giving your child rewards.
Workspace and Organization
Have the same homework routine each day. Ask your child to write down their assignments in a special book or calendar. Your child’s teacher may have a special folder for homework assignments, especially in the younger grades. Create a special homework spot. It can be at the kitchen table or a spot in the den. Few children work well independently in their bedrooms unless you accompany them, especially in the elementary and middle school years. Remember to turn off the TV and other distractions.
Have supplies on hand, including paper, pencils and erasers. An electric pencil sharpener is also a great investment.
Be flexible. Although your routine should remain the same, you may have to adjust the homework time on certain days depending on other family activities. Allow for a break every 20 minutes if necessary and make sure your child is fed. Hungry children move slowly.
Help your child organize the assignments as to what to do first. Complete the easier assignments first so your child avoids frustration and builds on success. And when the last, most difficult work is completed, your child is done for the night, brining relief and a well deserved sense of completion for your child and you.
Find the Answers
Let’s face it, some of the stuff we parents just won’t know. That’s okay. Be honest. Tell your child you don’t know the answer and try to find it together. There are lots of helpful websites.
BJ Pinchbeck's Homework Helper
Compiled by a middle school student for middle school students.
KidSource Online Education Homework Helper is a list of homework helper net sites. It is located at http://www.kidsource.com.
HomeworkSpot.com includes homework resources for elementary, middle, and secondary students in most subject areas, as well as a reference center with pointers to quick reference materials, current events information, and "ask-an-expert" services. It is located at http://www.homeworkspot.com.
Work with the Teacher
If your child seems frustrated or constantly resists completing homework assignments, speak with your child’s teacher. Don’t wait for teacher-conferences or reports cards if you have concerns about your child’s academic performance. You are your child’s best advocate. By tackling issues as they arise, your child will learn to tackle assignments successfully and develop good study skills. The teacher and school will be eager to give you ideas and suggestions.
Gigi Schweikert is the president and COO of Lightbridge Academy and an expert in the field of early childhood education. She has managed corporate childcare centers and their educational programs for more than 30 years. Schweikert was the host of Today’s Family and is a bestselling author of eighteen books. Follow 1851 Franchise as she shares her tips on parenting and childcare.