School comes with a variety of amazing experiences from learning how to read to discovering your favorite teacher, and even acting in the school play. Some of the more stressful components of school include taking exams, remembering your locker combination and, of course, homework.
For some children, homework is a breeze. They might even look forward to doing it! But for others, homework can be a struggle—a dreaded end to an already long day. It’s our job as parents to help make the process of doing homework more enjoyable and less stressful for our kids.
Here are five tips and tricks that I’ve found really work when tackling homework with students.
1. Create a Special Place
Trying to concentrate on homework with LEGOs, puzzles and Goldfish crowding the table and the TV in the next room blasting Nickelodeon isn’t very practical. Just as adults need a quiet, conducive workspace, so do children when it comes time for homework.
If your child is old enough, putting a small desk with a lamp and chair in their room might be the perfect option. Let them choose their decor also—it will provide them a sense of ownership over their space. Even if placing a desk in your child’s room won’t work for you, you can still carve out a small spot among your family’s living space that is designated as the “homework area.”
Clear off one side of your dining room table, leaving it free of clutter. Have a specific drawer for school supplies where your child can find pencils, erasers, a fraction calculator or ruler and scrap paper. This way, at homework time, your child has all the supplies they need and know exactly where to find them.
2. Schedule Time Just for Homework
Kids respond well to routine. Setting up a homework schedule can do wonders for their productivity and concentration. If your child arrives home from school at the same time each day, create a schedule for what happens next.
Maybe they need to unwind a bit before diving into division and word problems. Let them have a healthy snack and 15 to 20 minutes of TV or free time before tackling homework. If your child is involved in sports, you’ll need to take this into consideration when developing a schedule. Maybe homework happens right after school, while their brain is still in “school work” mode. Or, right before dinner. Some children work best at the very end of the day. It’s important to know and learn your child’s work ethic and to create a schedule around that. This will save you both a lot of stress and frustration.
3. Be Involved
Protractors and highlighters aren’t the only tools your child needs to succeed—communication between parent and teacher is an essential tool for educational success. I know from personal experience that I’m not always familiar with the curriculum or techniques that the school is currently using to teach a common math equation. I often ask my son, “How did your teacher explain to do it?” At 7, he doesn’t always remember. To avoid frustration, I send an email to his teacher, asking for clarification. She’ll often respond relatively quickly, with a breakdown of that day’s lesson. Knowing how the information is being taught is an invaluable tool when it comes to helping my son with his homework.
There’s nothing more confusing to a child than having a teacher and a parent try to teach them how to achieve the same answer using two different methods. To avoid this confusion, I recommend keeping in close contact with your child’s instructor. An added benefit to this report is that you can provide your child’s teacher with insight into their learning process. No one knows your child better than you. Maybe your son or daughter works best in the mornings, is left-handed, or needs to read out loud for comprehension. Unless the teacher knows this, your child might experience unnecessary distress. Keep the lines of communication open and both your child and your child’s teacher will thank you!
4. Help—But Don’t Do
This is probably the most difficult part of homework help for me. I have a tendency to give my son the answers, without even realizing that’s what I’m doing!
No one likes to see their child struggle. If your child is getting frustrated or down on themselves during homework time, take a break. Maybe go for a walk, talk about what you’re going to watch on TV that night or your weekend plans.
It’s important that you fight the urge to simply give your child the answers or make the answers obvious without having your child do the work. Without making mistakes or practicing the technique, your child will never learn how to get the answers on their own. Even if in that moment it feels easier just to tell them what to do, in the long run, you’re actually creating more of a hurdle in your child’s learning process.
5. Be a Cheerleader
Even if you never wanted to be a cheerleader in high school, now is the time!
As frustrated as your child might get with their homework, don’t be surprised if you feel the same frustration. It can be emotionally and mentally taxing when your child doesn’t understand the work or the explanation you’re trying to give. Try to stay calm and positive.
Encouraging your child can be a huge aid in their success at homework time. Point out all of your child’s accomplishments, no matter how big or small! “Look at that! You finished your reading three minutes faster than last week,” or “I only helped you with five math problems today, that’s a big improvement from yesterday.” Show your child how proud you are when they take their time and complete their homework correctly and neatly. Even if your child is still struggling, your motivation will keep them from giving up.
The most important thing to remember when helping your child successfully complete their homework assignments is to keep your attitude and the environment positive and productive. Make it a positive experience. This doesn’t mean your child will quickly finish every assignment, every day, without assistance. But it does mean you’re setting them up for success!