Maybe the title should be: Homework?… HELP !
Homework (independent work outside of the classroom) is an inescapable – and important – part of education, and your role as a parent is to help your child develop and practice the skills required to do this work successfully and autonomously. Here are a few things you should try before throwing up your hands in despair:
1. Make a plan. At the beginning of the school year, sit down with your child and decide together on a list of 2 or 3 goals (no missed assignments, improved grades in a particular subject, etc). Make clear your own expectations for homework (where/when it should be done). Review and evaluate these goals a few times during the year to see how things are going.
2. Stay close! You don’t need to hover and read over your child’s shoulder, but be nearby in case your child has a question or just needs some reassurance. Foster independence by giving your child a chance to work things out for him/herself, but be there to listen to ideas or help with organization. Sitting at the table next to your child and doing some work of your own can be a great way to model focus and concentration.
3. Designate a place for homework. Find a comfortable and fairly distraction-free area for your child to work in. Stock the homework area with tools and resources (paper, ruler, pencils, dictionary, etc.) that may be necessary.
4. Set a time for homework. Have a consistent schedule for when homework should be completed. If your child’s other after-school activities are posted on a calendar somewhere, add homework. While children do need some time to unwind when they get home, limit this to about 30 minutes involving nothing with a screen (no TV, or texting , or video games), before homework time starts.
5. Don’t forget weekends! It’s nice to have a day off (maybe Friday?), but definitely schedule some time when homework will be done over the weekend – and don’t leave it ‘til Sunday night!
6. Set limits to avoid exhaustion and frustration. If your child is really stuck or struggling with something, and you can’t help without spoon-feeding the answer, write a note or email to your child’s teacher requesting a review. If your child is 10 or older, he/she should write the note and talk to the teacher. These moments are usually few and far between, but use them as opportunities to help your child learn to ask for help when it is required. Stick to regular mealtimes, bedtimes and wake-up times: while children may sometimes stay up a little late or wake up a little early, don’t let homework prevent your child from getting a good night’s rest or a proper dinner/breakfast.
7. Don’t be a rescuer! If you’re writing excuse notes to teachers every week or delivering forgotten books and assignments to school for your child, stop! Children who are disorganized, those who lack motivation, and those who need remedial help should all be empowered to take charge of their own learning. Give them a hand with time management (make prioritized task lists, divide large assignments into manageable chunks, etc.), remind them to pack all their books, or encourage them to be proactive about seeking help instead of feeling the need to bail them out yourself.
Remember, those school days fly by quickly! Homework is a wonderful opportunity for you to participate in your child’s education and share your own skills and interests. You can assign homework, too: a trip to the grocery story might lead to an assignment about discounts. A movie at the cinema could lead to a written biography of one of the lead actors. You can show your child that learning should be a fun and life-long experience.