Stop the Homework Wars

Scene: Kids stomps off the bus, across the lawn, and into the house. *Door SLAMS*

Kid: Mom, can I (insert activity here)?

Mom: Nope, homework first, kiddo!

Kid sulks off into a corner and lollygags over homework for three hours. No homework accomplished.

What if I told you that there was a better way?

There is! Here are ways to to help end your battles over homework.

Take a Break

Your kid has been in school for eight straight hours. With PE and recess on the chopping block, most of that time has been spent in a very uncomfortable plastic chair trapped behind an awkward desk, bent over a paper or hunched in front of a laptop.

Would YOU want to keep working on the same stuff you had just left? No! And neither do they.

Instead of forcing your child to buckle right down to work, give them a break first. Take a walk, throw a ball, rake leaves, whatever. Just get active.

Not all kids need a movement break. Some options are reading quietly, drawing/painting, staring into space, or helping you in the kitchen (among many others). As a teacher though, I would avoid screen time for the break. Let that be a “reward” post homework completion instead.

Set Up a Homework Zone

Designate a special place to do the homework. Get your child involved in creating the space, and take her personal learning style into consideration.

Whatever your child need should be there: quiet, white noise, art supplies, fidgety things.

Make sure this area is FULLY stocked for work. Put pencils, paper, art supplies, glue, scissors, math tools, and anything else they might conceivably need to work here. If it is at their work station, there is no need to wander around the house.

set-up-a-work-zone-that

Schedule Time

Having completed a K-12 education, plus college and grad school, I understand academic stress. Today’s kids are under even MORE school stress than we were at their ages.

Help your child by breaking it down with them. Create a checklist, calendar, or other system (sticky notes are AMAZING for this) to keep track of what needs to be done NOW, what can wait until tomorrow, and what’s due next week. Once their work is in smaller chunks, it can seem more manageable.

The checklist system also works really well as a rewards system, too. For example: You have 20 math problems and 30 minutes of reading. Once you complete your math AND 10 minutes of reading, you can have 20 minutes to do anything that you want in the house.

Independence

Many kids realize that mom, dad, the babysitter, grandma, or grandpa are better (and faster) at doing homework. Since kids are super smart about getting adults to do what they want, you might end up doing their math for them. This is not what we want.

So make yourself super busy doing whatever. Taxes, washing the dog, corralling the toddlers, making dinner, or folding laundry.

Just make sure that you are available for questions ONLY and don’t involve you completely figuring out the problem. You can read the prompt, ask pointed questions, and give support. If you child really doesn’t understand, shoot the teacher a quick email or put a note (in ink) on the assignment.

Reasonable Time

Many teachers, and schools, follow the 10 minutes per grade level rule for homework. So, a first grader would have just 10 minutes of homework, but a fourth grader would have up to 40, and a senior in high school would have up to two hours per night.

If you find that you child is either finishing in record time or taking way longer than expected, this is the time to check their work.

For quick kids, have them check handwriting, neatness, and the actual work. I know I made silly mistakes so I could be done sooner.

If you kid is working slowly all the time, it could just be their way. Email the teacher and see if homework could be shortened slightly. Or build in breaks along the way. Either way, try and stick to the grade-level time guidelines (within reason). For known longer assignments, help your child break it up over time instead of cramming all on one night.

Rewards?

Toys, candy or other “tangibles” create the idea that your child is going to get stuff just for doing what he is supposed to do in the first place.

Let the built-in rewards be enough: time to play outside, with their friends, or video/computer games/

Offer praise and verbal reminders that because of how they worked, they can do (insert activity here). Repeat as often as needed.

For kids who DO need something “real” make the reward something they need to work for over time. Like a point system (points for neatness, on-time, no whining, etc.) where X amount of points gets something of value.

Younger children will need more guidance and help than older students. But if you are still sitting beside your junior in high school, perhaps take a step back and think about this.

How have you “won” the homework wars?

~Meg

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